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Author      Title/Abstract      

Nashville Employee Study Teams Drive Cost Savings and Earn Buy-In
Author: Jeffrey L. Pintenich, Hal Balthrop
Date: 10/00
Presented at WEFTEC 2000 in Anaheim, CA.

The Metropolitan Department of Water and Sewerage Services, also known as Metro Water Services or MWS, provides public water and sewerage services for the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee and several surrounding areas. MWS has undertaken a variety of competitive utility performance initiatives since the early 1990s, which have achieved significant economies in the business of the Department. MWS, with the support of the Metro Purchasing Department, solicited technical and business proposals for change management/reengineering services from several companies to facilitate the achievement of further, specific cost reduction targets. The Brown and Caldwell team was retained by MWS to provide these services. BC and MWS began work on this 5-year cost savings program in early June 1999. Several employee Study Teams have been constituted to focus on individual MWS Divisions, changes which transcend organization boundaries, and specific cost reduction opportunities. These Study Teams allow for broad input from employees across the MWS organization, including those with the most direct knowledge of the activities being examined. Some cost savings actions require Study Team work, while others do not. The role of the Teams is to: 1. Evaluate options for implementing one or more improvement ideas. 2. Quantify the potential savings and benefits. 3. Determine if the ideas are worth pursuing. 4. Develop an implementation plan for ideas judged to be worthwhile. 5. Propose recommendations to the Change Leadership Team. 6. Assist during the implementation phase. The Study Team members are process owners, customers, and stakeholders. Study Team membership includes all appropriate levels of employees and union members to the extent possible. The preferred method of team membership is on a voluntary basis. A large cross-section of Departmental employees volunteered to serve on Study Teams. In October 1999, 16 Teams were chartered to evaluate potential cost saving actions. Each Team addressed either a Quick Win or a Priority 1 Action. Facilitators are MWS employees that have previously received formal facilitation training in courses offered by MWS. BC provided initial orientation to the facilitators in October 1999. These Teams began their work in early November 1999. This paper describes how we have used employee study teams on the Nashville reengineering/change management project to help evaluate and implement annual O&M cost savings. The method of the team work process (charter/roles of mentor, facilitator, team leader, scribe, and team members/the improvement cycle/definition of current knowledge/methods for developing and choosing options, such as brainstorming, multivoting, and consensus/data gathering methods/etc.) is described. The 16 study teams in Nashville are profiled with regard to objective/recommendations/cost savings, as well as observations about dynamics. We also identify the metrics used to chart progress after implementation and actual savings realized (e.g., power reduction, increase in number of construction inspection hours, reduction in tonnage of sludge).