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$0.6m of benefit

Corrections Victoria (CV) is the largest business unit in the Department of Justice with 2500 employees. One of the major functions of CV is to manage 13 different prisons spread across the State. 

Like many Government Departments, it is an organisation characterised by shrinking budgets, increasing work demands, staffing challenges, and an  ad-hoc approach to problem solving accompanied by a disproportionate focus on risk.

One of the most demanding areas inside the prisons are the kitchens. These work areas produce as many as 15,000 meals per day across the State.

In spite of sharing many standard operating procedures, these kitchens tended to operate in isolation with minimal collaboration with other prisons. This, combined with the logistical challenges of feeding so many daily and the challenges of quality, cost and procurement suggested substantial scope for redesign and operational improvement.

To take advantage of this opportunity the Change Management team submitted a proposal to allow the managers and staff of these kitchens to form a Community of Practice (CoP). To enable this community it was proposed that 1 or 2 staff members travel to a different prison once a month and spend the whole day as a group collaborating and planning ways to streamline and improve operations.

Initially the organisational leadership was reluctant to approve this process. Staffing and budget issues were considered prohibitive along with a scepticism in the capacity of the participants to work productively whilst away as a group. Some doubt was also expressed in their capacity to drive sufficient business improvement to warrant the associated costs. 

To counter this, it was proposed that during the first CoP session all members would spend the day being trained in the Six Thinking Hats to aid in their productivity, idea generation and decision-making. With this additional support put in place, approval was granted to commence the “Catering Community of Practice”.

For the initial CoP meeting the group traveled to Beechworth prison in the State’s North where they spent the full day undergoing training in the parallel thinking of the Six Hats. At days end the group then convened for an evening meal at the local hotel.

During the course of the meal with the community seated around one large table, one member voiced some dissatisfaction at “milk levy” that each prison was paying the Federal Government. Given the prisons come under State, not Federal jurisdiction he proposed that as a community they might produce a joint submission and question it.

The immediate response from around the table was a negative one citing the degree of difficulty of having to collate all of the related paperwork and receipts and then spend the time drafting a submission, that would in all probability be rejected.

In the midst of this critique a single voice then interjected asking the whole table, “Do you realise what you all just did”? After a brief silence another responded with “We all went straight into Black Hat”! With this, the group unanimously agreed to consider the Yellow Hat value in undertaking the submission and subsequently compiled and sent it.

Within weeks of submission the Caterers’ had $250,000 reimbursed into their kitchen budgets plus agreement that the scheduled $350,000 for the current financial year would be waived. An immediate and measureable bottom line benefit of $600,000.

Thinking always benefits through the application of process and in this instance, even a simple reminder of a part of that process. In this instance, the Department benefitted substantially from the caterer’s application of the value perspective of the Yellow Hat before considering the critical assessment of the Black.

Think Quick

Australia, New Zealand


61 400109727

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