By Ms Carol E Davis (USACE)December 13, 2011
WIESBADEN, Germany -- It has been nearly a year since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District held its first customer service workshop in recent years that was designed to answer one question, "How can we better serve you?"
Nearly 40 customers from garrisons and other government and military agencies participated in the January 2011 one-day workshop which revealed some areas where the district could continue to improve its service.
Kristopher Hurst, Project Management Branch chief said the topics of the sessions were generated from the 2010 customer survey responses. Using the survey responses during the workshop allowed customers to expound on their concerns about project managers' turnover, project management plans, and customer visibility on projects.
He said after the workshop, the district started reviewing its processes, developing new procedures, and refining current procedures to improve services based on the customers' feedback.
Hurst said his team, consisting of branch members, has since put into operation several new PMP templates that would streamline the creation of PMPs and provide a consistent, efficient, and standardized way to communicate the road map for project execution. Creating standardized templates for each major program like Army-Air Force Military Construction, Medical, Department of Defense Dependant Schools, and Family Housing construction projects allows the project managers to focus on specific requirements for each project as well as ensuring customer unique processes and communications procedures are maintained. Other branches within the district are also implementing standardized templates for PMPs as well.
"The plan is not a standalone process. It is simply a tool to be used as part of the overall execution processes," Hurst said.
Hurst's team also addressed the issue of PM turnover which he said is always a challenge in a district that basically has a three- to five-year turnover rate. He said PMs are arranging more face-to-face turnover meetings to introduce new PMs to customers. These meetings assist in ensuring any significant project information can be discussed with the team prior to the project management changing hands.
"Discussions with our customers are an important step towards improving our service," Mark Roncoli, deputy district engineer said. "These discussions ensure the lines of communication stay open. This transparency helps mitigate or eliminate potential challenges before they become substantial problems," he said.
Roger Gerber, Transformation Stationing Management director, said because of the dialogue during the workshop, both the district and the customers understand each other better.
"I think the important thing is to ensure all members of the project delivery team have an opportunity to provide input," said Gerber. "PMs are like the team quarterback and call the plays. As long as there is open communication between them and the customers, issues will get resolved. This is the most valuable service that the district can provide to its customers."
The next customer workshop will be held Jan. 25, 2012 at the Community Activity Center on Wiesbaden Army Airfield. Roncoli said it is another opportunity for senior leaders to listen to the customers, gage how effective we have been with last year's take-a-ways, and hear feedback about new items of concern.
"We want to be better service providers, so we want to understand how to delight our customers," Roncoli said. "These workshops put us one step closer to being the best we can possibly be."