Keys to Management Success

The following are frequently used management approaches and systems that experience indicates help water and wastewater utilities manage more effectively. They create a supportive climate for a utility as it works towards the outcomes outlined in the Attributes, and they can help integrate the utility’s improvement efforts across the Attributes. The Keys to Management Success are:

Keys to Management Success: Leadership

Leadership is critical to effective utility management, particularly in the context of driving and inspiring change within an organization.

“Leadership” refers both to individuals who can be effective champions for improvement, and to teams that provide resilient, day-to-day management continuity and direction.

Effective leadership ensures that the utility’s direction is understood, embraced, and followed on an ongoing basis throughout the management cycle. Leadership has an important responsibility to communicate with the utility’s stakeholders and customers. It further reflects a commitment to organizational excellence, leading by example to establish and reinforce an organizational culture that embraces positive change and strives for continual improvement.

Additional resources on leadership can be found in the EUM Resource Toolbox.

Keys to Management Success: Strategic Business Planning

Strategic business planning is an important tool for achieving balance and cohesion across the Attributes. A strategic plan provides a framework for decision making by:

  • Assessing current conditions, strengths, and weaknesses
  • Assessing underlying causes and effects
  • Establishing vision, objectives, and strategies
  • Establishing specific implementation steps that will move a utility from its current level of performance to achieving its vision

Preparation of a strategic business plan involves taking a long-term view of utility goals and operations and establishing a clear vision and mission. When developed, the strategic business plan will drive and guide utility objectives, measurement efforts, investments, and operations. A strategic plan can help explain the utility’s conditions, goals, and plans to staff and stakeholders, stimulate change, and increase engagement in improvement efforts. After developing a strategic business plan, it is important that the utility integrates tracking of progress through measurement into its management framework.

Additional resources on strategic business planning can be found in the EUM Resource Toolbox.

Keys to Management Success: Organizational Approaches

There are a variety of organizational approaches that contribute to overall effective utility management and that are critical to the success of management improvement efforts. These include:

  • Actively engaging employees in improvement efforts (helping to identify improve-ment opportunities, participating in cross-functional improvement teams, etc.)
  • Deploying an explicit change management process that anticipates and plans for change and encourages staff at all levels to embrace change
  • Utilizing implementation strategies that seek, identify, and celebrate early, step-by-step victories

Additional resources on organizational approaches can be found in the EUM Resource Toolbox.

Keys to Management Success: Measurement

Measurement is critical to management improvement efforts associated with the Attributes. A measurement system serves many vital purposes, including focusing attention on key issues, clarifying expectations, facilitating decision making, and, most importantly, learning and improving.

Successful measurement efforts often are:

  • Viewed as a continuum, starting with basic internal tracking, and, as needed and appropriate, moving to more sophisticated baselining and trend analysis, development of key performance indicators, and inclusion of externally oriented measures which address community sustainability interests
  • Driven by and focused on answering questions critical to effective internal management and external stakeholder needs (e.g., information needed to allow governing bodies to support large capital investments comfortably)
  • Supported by a well-defined decision framework assuring results are evaluated, communicated, and responded to in a timely manner

Deciding where to start and what to measure can be challenging. Measures can also be taken out of context. While an essential tool in the self-improvement process, measurement is not the only tool and should be approached, structured, and used thoughtfully.

List of Attribute-Related Utility Measures

The following is a targeted list of Attribute-related utility measures. These are presented in “headline” form to give you a sense of measures. This Interactive Primer also includes further explanation of measurement approaches and more detail on these measures, as well as example calculations, where applicable.

Product Quality
1. Product quality regulatory compliance
2. Product quality service delivery

Customer Satisfaction
1. Customer complaints
2. Customer service delivery
3. Customer satisfaction

Employee and Leadership Development
1. Employee retention and satisfaction
2. Management of core competencies
3. Workforce succession preparedness

Operational Optimization
1. Resource optimization
2. Water management efficiency

Financial Viability
1. Budget management effectiveness
2. Financial procedure integrity
3. Bond ratings
4. Rate adequacy

Infrastructure Stability
1. Asset inventory
2. Asset (system) renewal/replacement
3. Water distribution/collection system integrity
4. Planned maintenance

Operational Resiliency
1. Recordable incidents of injury or illnesses
2. Insurance claims
3. Risk assessment and response preparedness
4. Ongoing operational resiliency
5. Operational resiliency under emergency conditions

Community Sustainability
1. Watershed-based infrastructure planning
2. Green infrastructure
3. Greenhouse gas emissions
4. Service affordability

Water Resource Adequacy
1. Water supply adequacy
2. Supply and demand management

Stakeholder Understanding and Support
1. Stakeholder consultation
2. Stakeholder satisfaction
3. Internal benefits from stakeholder input
4. Comparative rate rank
5. Media/press coverage

Additional resources on measurement can also be found in the EUM Resource Toolbox.

Keys to Management Success: Continual Improvement Management Framework

A continual improvement management framework is usually implemented through a complete, start-to-finish management system, frequently referred to as a “Plan-Do-Check-Act” framework. This framework plays a central role in effective utility management and is critical to making progress on the Attributes.

Continual improvement management includes:

  • Conducting an honest and comprehensive self-assessment to identify management strengths, areas for improvement, priority needs, etc.
  • Conducting frequent sessions among interested parties to identify improvement opportunities
  • Following up on improvement projects underway
  • Establishing and implementing performance measures and specific internal targets associated with those measures
  • Defining and implementing related operational requirements, practices, and procedures
  • Establishing supporting roles and responsibilities
  • Implementing measurement activities such as regular evaluation through operational and procedural audits
  • Responding to evaluations through the use of an explicit change management process

This “Plan-Do-Check-Act” continual improvement framework is quite effective when applied internally. It can also be enhanced by using gap analysis, establishment of standard operating procedures, internal trend analysis and external benchmarking, best practice review, and other continual improvement tools. The framework can help utilities understand improvement opportunities and establish explicit service levels, guide investment and operational decisions, form the basis for ongoing measurement, and provide the ability to communicate clearly with customers and key stakeholders.

Additional resources on the continual improvement management framework can be found in the EUM Resource Toolbox.