Where are we going I asked my tour guide Chris Alcock as we headed south out of Melbourne? He replied I’m going to show you something special – a great example of smart working in the public sector. I was glad that I took up the offer of a visit to the City of Casey one of Australia’s fastest growing municipalities. As I came away really taken by the energy and the buzz of their smart working initiative – Project Vibe.
Located about 35kms to the south east of the CBD this part of the greater Melbourne area has seen tremendous growth in recent years. Its population stands today at 300,000 and it is expected to grow to 343,000 by 2021. Hence the need for some serious investment in public infrastructure. Pivotal to such is the creation of a new 24,500m² civic centre – Bunjil Place, a A$125m combined cultural, community and office facility. Their new home will enable them to have everyone under one roof for the first time. Rather than just focus on the building the team behind the project are also looking at how they might work differently in the future. The Council recognised that with the changing needs of its community it too must adapt to meet those needs. And that’s what I call smart working.
I visited the Council’s Works Centre in Narre Warren which is home to the construction, parks and roads departments, where the pilot for this new approach to public service provision is a great example of smart working. Thanks to all the Vibe team for taking the time to tell their remarkable story so far. Key for me was their approach to the pilot; their project sponsor describes this nondescript building as a ‘magical place’ as it was not an architect designed space because staff had a big say in the creation of the new layouts. Another noteworthy thing for me was the degree of engagement evident during my visit. For example, they all take morning coffee together and it was interesting to see lots of folk in office attire intermingle with those kitted out in hi-vis jackets etc. There was good banter and everyone seemed to gel.
Another interesting facet of their approach is the partnering of the project team with line managers. Having chatted with the latter they get the need for change and why they as enlightened leaders have to own the change process. The feedback from the 425 staff who have been part of their change process is very positive which helps them to be ready for the move to their new home in 2017.
So full marks to the focus City of Casey for a very interesting example of smart working. I came away in total agreement with the views of project sponsor Sally Curtain ; “it (the pilot) has this great vibe that just gets under your skin” There is a lot more to say about this but for the moment let’s finish by saying it’s a real gem of smart working in this part of the world.