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Tampa, Florida's, Wastewater Department (WWD) began an optimization program at their advanced wastewater treatment plant four years ago. Since then, the utility has achieved significant progress toward meeting their goal of becoming a world-class competitive organization. The program has focused on three areas – people, practices, and technology.

During the first year, the Department created new mission and vision statements and a Steering Team was formed. This Steering Team developed a Program Plan and selected business processes were modeled to determine an approximate productivity opportunity.

A second team was formed to communicate the program throughout the utility and to other stakeholders. The Communication Team developed a Communication Plan and began publishing a monthly newsletter for all internally and externally interested parties. Other communication tools, including face-to-face sessions with all staff, have also been used regularly.

A third team was created to address technology needs to support the optimization. This Technology Team drafted a Technology Plan for later use as the framework for a process to identify, prioritize, and implement technology tools. A Leadership Training Program was designed with the needs of a changing organization in mind. And, finally, a pilot program was designed to allow Department staff to try out new work practices and organization models.

The second year saw the beginning of the leadership program. Team training was initiated for all staff volunteering for pilots and other teams. The first pilot was completed and a second pilot was designed to continue learning new ways of working. The completion of the first pilot saw the payment of the first of three performance bonuses. This bonus amounted to over 659 per person for every person at the plant from frontline workers to the plant manager. Everyone received the same bonus amount.

Meanwhile, several technology initiatives from the Technology Plan were started and some were completed in the same year. Another team began looking at current job descriptions and pay scales in support of workforce flexibility/skill-based compensation (WFF/SBC). The WFF/SBC Team designed new job descriptions based on what was learned from the pilots. The pilots also provided staff with the first opportunity to cross-train into new job skills.

Within the pilot areas, the ratio of planned maintenance to reactive maintenance improved to 80 ercent and 20 percent, respectively. This was due in large part to the implementation of a 30- day work plan for pilot area staff and the development of a maintenance standard operating procedure. Finally, the second year of the program saw the start of negotiations of Service Level Agreements (SLAs) between WWD and several supporting city departments including Fleet Maintenance and MIS.

The second year also saw the start of a similar program in the Collection and Stormwater divisions of the Department. These divisions followed the same process laid out above including the formation of a Steering Team, process modeling, and pilot design.

During the third year a Transition Team was formed and a Transition Plan developed to help the organization move from old structures, work habits, and practices to new organization strategies, streamlined work practices, and technology enablers. A new organization model was developed. The second and third (last) pilots were completed and additional bonuses were paid out for a total bonus package of over 1,400.00 during a 12- month period. Leadership Training was also completed as was Team Training. Technology Plan initiatives became technology specifications and SLAs were completed and put in place. Better pay scales were approved and a Training & Certification Program was designed for implementation during the fourth and final year of the Optimization Program.

Meanwhile, the Collection and Stormwater divisions started their combined pilot and began the process of designing new job descriptions and pay scales as well as a training and certification program for their future multi-skilled workforce.

Also, year three saw the start of an optimization effort for the remaining divisions of the Department – Engineering and Administration. These “support” divisions, too, are following a similar process to the “operating” divisions and early indications are that they will see marked improvement opportunities as well.

Many hurdles are ahead for these teams. However, the WWD is confident that the strength of working in teams and keeping focused will enable them to continue the successful conversion to becoming a world-class competitive utility.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2004-01-01

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