Permit Processing on Mercer Island

Abstract

Instructors may use this case to teach operations analysis, and demonstrate the use of "continuous improvement" or "work re-engineering," inclusive decision-making and strategic organizational development. This case is ideal for provoking classroom discussion about the risks associated with different problem solving strategies from the perspective of the chief executive, about work flow systems and identifying moments of key customer contact ("moments of truth").

As is typical of many government and nonprofit agencies, the City of Mercer Island is faced with blending complex regulatory responsibilities, customer service delivery expectations, and coordination of the staff performing the tasks in an environment of crisis. In the face of mounting public criticism and faltering staff morale, the City Manager must apply a problem solving strategy involving a number of stakeholders in an effort to improve customers' experience when applying for land use and building permits in the City.

After discussion of the A case, students may be asked to design an alternative service delivery system, and then to compare their solutions with the actual solution which is depicted in the B case. The C case provides a snapshot of the new service delivery system one year later and the perceived next round of service delivery issues. The three parts of the case show the before, during, and one-year-later cycle inherent in a major organizational change.

This case was written by Judith Noble while a candidate for a Master's Degree in Public Administration at the University of Washington, and has been taught by Jon Brock, Associate Professor at the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington, and also by Professor Stephen Rosenthal at the School of Management, Boston University.

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