Staff leading change: Lake Macquarie City Council’s innovation offers

Published on 25 May 2021

A sector-leading change process led by Lake Macquarie City Council staff has created an engaged, collaborative workforce, which has already delivered $1.8 million in budget and productivity gains.

Professor Roberta Ryan from the University of Newcastle was commissioned to lead an independent review of the Council’s change process, which spanned four years to 2021.

Professor Ryan said there were valuable lessons for the whole local government sector in Lake Macquarie’s approach to change.

“Change is challenging for any organisation. Our research found that Lake Macquarie’s highly successful process has led to a more empowered workforce who work together at all levels and take ownership of change.  They are motivated towards delivering better outcomes for the organisation and their community.”

The University’s research established that the key learnings from the process included:

  • agreeing the vision and values early in the process
  • driving leadership throughout the hierarchy
  • committing to staff participation
  • monitoring the process and being flexible to pivot as required, and
  • investing the time to create a more agile, connected and organisation.

“Underpinning the strength of the process was Council’s absolute focus on open communication and engagement,” Professor Ryan said.

“While the processes for ideas generation and decision-making were driven by staff from the bottom-up, communications throughout all phases were driven top down and across Council.”

Lake Macquarie CEO, Morven Cameron, said the impetus for change came from all staff, including the organisation’s executives and managers.

“We want Lake Macquarie to be the most liveable City that it can be. Only by changing the organisation will we be able to support this vision and attract the right people to help us achieve it,” Ms Cameron said.

“Staff across Council have invested in this process to transform our culture, structure and workplace and deliver the shift to a much more efficient, effective and customer-facing organisation.

“Through a staff-led approach, we created a plan to develop a highly collaborative workforce who deliver quality service to our community.  We now have a culture of innovative business improvement embedded in our organisation with people empowered to make change at all levels.”

University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alex Zelinsky AO, said the partnership had yielded great results.

“This is a great example of how our two institutions can work together to make a difference to our communities,” he said.