Category Archives: Updates

Changes to the 2015 quality survey

We’ve been getting some solid feedback on the customer surveys from the councils already involved in the Quality Framework. We’ve now made some changes to the surveys based on this feedback – from small typos to substantive changes, that we hope will help make some of the questions much clearer in their meaning and intention.

The biggest concern for many of you was the ‘review’ question (Q6). This has now been changed to read “Are you happy for the council to contact you about your responses to this survey?” which should remove any suggestion that a review of the council’s decision is available via the survey.

You can see a demonstration version of the updated survey here. All of the changes are also listed below if you’d like to read on.

Do let us know if you there are further things you think we can improve upon. We’re also happy to get you set up on the system if you’re not already on board. Email us at:

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This is Quality (Part Two)

Planning Quality Framework: flexible…agile…worthwhile

In my previous blog, I introduced the Planning Quality Framework – the antidote to target-based performance management and a neat path to true continuous improvement. Since then I have had a number of people ask how the Quality Framework differs from our previous benchmark and, please could we make it a bit simpler?

Well we have, in a number of ways. It’s modular, so you can choose how much you do. It’s not timetabled so you can choose when you do it. It’s low-hassle – the emphasis has moved away from cost so there’s no need to train whole departments to time-record and re-classify work, or learn the language that accountants speak in.

The whole is more than the sum of its parts… (Aristotle)

Each module is valuable in it’s own right but is not the whole story. The real value comes when you draw all three together – how many expensive process reviews focus solely on speeding things up but fail to notice that the service says ‘yes’ more often than its peers, creates less waste and has happier customers? The quality framework reports will show a much more rounded story of what’s happening and which way the service is heading.

Like most things in life, the more you put in, the more you get out. You don’t have to do everything at once or follow a timetable, but the more you do the better the value. Any timetabling PAS suggests will be so that we can provide support but it’s not compulsory. It’s a bit like the self-service tills at the supermarket – you can get on and away quickly but if you need someone to sort that ‘unidentified item in the bagging area’ or confirm your age, then you may have to wait. For example, we may suggest a customer survey in November but you already do one every June – fine, we’ll slot your results in when they’re ready.

How the Planning Quality Framework is different from the PAS Benchmark:

PAS Benchmark          Quality Framework
You have to do it all It’s got 3 modules – the more you do; the better the value
All together, once per year, and if you miss the boat – tough You just begin, when you’re ready.
A snapshot in time Ongoing, quarterly and annual reporting
Based on understanding and improvement Based on understanding and improvement
Industrial strength accounting, time-sheeting Low hassle, no time sheeting
Internal management tool Internal management tool, external badge of quality

This is Quality (Part One)

Continuous improvement built on understanding

Quality is now in the eye of the beholder. To provide a quality planning service, you don’t need to achieve a certain number or hit a target. You need to understand two things:

1. what makes your customers happy
2. what annoys them.

You then measure things that tell you if your service is achieving the former/avoiding the latter.

Sound simple?

Well PAS is launching the Planning Quality Framework in September 2014 to see just how simple we can make this.

Boiled down, the framework is a simple set of tools and techniques that helps councils to:

  • understand customer’s expectations about ‘good’ and ‘quality’ service
  • understand their own and stakeholder’s expectations about quality development
  • create a set of measures to tell if it’s being achieved
  • make reports that explain what’s happening to a variety of audiences
  • act; understand, learn, experiment, improve.

‘Good Quality Service’ – making the words jump off the page

For too long we have been using words like ‘quality’ and ‘continuous improvement’ as adjectives – ways to describe what we are and what quality service is and looks like. It is time for these words to become verbs – something that we do and has associated action(s).

So, instead of the Government, the Director or the bland set of words in the service plan describing what they think ‘good’ and ‘quality’ is, the framework gets the views of applicants, agents, neighbours, objectors, members and staff. They know much more about this.

It creates more useful measures e.g. how long do things really take, how much certainty do you provide and how much waste do you create ? Then, most importantly for me, it produces reports for your ‘audiences’ – helping you tell them what’s happening and what you’re doing about the things they care about most.