Innovation Exchange

Lean Green Planning Machine


Key activities

Benefits and impacts


Further Information

Fife’s Development Management (DM) team carried out an extensive 3 year change programme.  Using lean principles the DM team embarked on a transformational change to tackle poor customer communication, poor performance in determining development applications and an inconsistent approach to processes. By using lean management we were able to challenge traditional views and practices and encourage the development of innovative solutions.


Based on customer feedback via surveys and corporate complaints we identified that speedier decision making, access to case officers and better planning information were all important to our customers.


The team addressed these issues through embracing a common goal and a shared understanding, of the commitment required by both the service and customers. Closer working relationships within the team were formed and this led to a joined up approach to delivering a professional, cost effective and high quality service to customers.

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Theme: Service Transformation

Through the support of a lean practitioner the team focussed on the problems identified by our customers.  All staff, at some point during the change process, were actively engaged in determining the future of the (DM) service.  Targets were set by staff and this ‘buy in’ from staff made the commitment to achieve all the more relevant.


Staff critically assessed their current work practices and attitudes and by doing so were able to identify the key areas requiring change.


A communication plan was drawn up to ensure that any changes affecting our different customer groups were communicated quickly and easily.  By identifying our key stakeholder groups - elected members, community groups, professional agents and consultees we were able to include our customers in the overall change.

The results and impact achieved were beneficial to customers, staff, the wider service and ultimately Fife Council.


  • Before the project began we received 23% of applications online. This has now risen to over 80% which has resulted in reduced costs for applicant (printing and postage) and reduced administrative costs required for converting files as well as reduced storage and file retrieval costs.

  • We were able to reduce our advertising costs by up to 34%.  By dealing directly with newspaper rather than supplier we were also able to reduce the lead in time from one week to 2 days which speeds up decision time.

  • A further benefit was linked to the increased number of flexible working arrangements.  Staff across the team have been able to agree a variety of working patterns to improve their working lives and in turn morale.  Nearly 90% of staff have a flexible working arrangement in place.

  • By providing a better customer service we reduced the number of complaints received.  This led to a reduction in management time carrying out complaint investigations. There was also a shift in the type of complaint received - less service delivery and more planning process related complaints.

  • We promoted the use of our website as a customer information resource along with the ability to track applications.   By moving to electronic communication we achieved speedier response times for customers, reduced the amount of paper used, reduced storage as well as providing up to date application information.

Many of our processes were derived from past history and earlier changes had slipped back into old habits. Lean provided an effective tool to enable the team to eliminate waste and re-work.  By adopting lean principles the team continue to use them and they have acted as the catalyst for a number of customer focussed improvements.


We monitor the effectiveness of changes through regular reviews built into projects at start up and by using visual management boards. These are updated regularly, sometimes daily, and they are used by staff to identify where resources are needed. This allows the teams to manage their workload, addressing issues and solving problems as they arise. Increasingly, the teams also take responsibility for monitoring and improving their performance.  This regular monitoring and reviewing process ensures that we continue forward with improvements and streamlining our services which are now considered the norm.

For further information please contact Alan Blackie

Contact details:

To find out more about this case study, please contact:


Alan Blackie

Lead Officer

Fife Council

03451 55 55 55 ext 450557

Case study added to site: June 2016

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