Connecting state and local government leaders

Building a 'Customer Focused' Culture in Michigan

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Connecting state and local government leaders

As Brom Stibitz steps into an interim director role for the state of Michigan's Department of Technology, Management and Budget, Route Fifty highlights his efforts to improve agency operations.

Last month, Route Fifty sat down with Brom Stibitz, the chief deputy director of the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget—better known by its shortened moniker DTMB. With Department Director David Behen leaving later this month, Stibitz will step into the interim director role for the organization.  

Over his tenure at DTMB, Behen has built a solid reputation across the state government community and established himself as a driving force in bringing Michigan’s state government technology into the 21st century. Over the past two years, Stibitz has worked closely with Behen on improving the agency’s delivery of quality services and products. Our interview with Stibitz provides some perspective on his role serving in a chief operating officer capacity for the agency over the past two years and his dedication to building a customer-focused culture.

“DTMB has a long history as a central control agency,” explained Stibitz. “When you look at agencies that are in that position, you spend a lot of time making rules for things and enforcing rules—and a lot of the time… maybe telling your customers ‘no.’ We’ve really tried to change that—and especially with the election of Rick Snyder … we really tried to move to a more customer-focused culture.”

When Stibitz started at DTMB in early 2015, the agency did not have a strong grasp on how they were perceived by their customers: the other state agencies they serve. Stibitz explained that without data, “What we get caught in is this trap of the anecdotal. Do we have a real problem, or is it that I just got three complaints this week?”

“If we’re going to be a customer-focused culture we need to put some energy, time, and resources into talking to our customers and finding out where we are.”

To that end, in spring 2015, DTMB launched a survey to find out how Michigan’s agencies felt about 36 services the agency provides to the rest of Michigan’s state government. The results were not what DTMB wanted them to be; only 56 percent said they were satisfied with the services they receive from the department.

The silver lining—DTMB’s leadership saw the results as a baseline on which to improve. It gave the leadership team granular data to work from; they could “slice and dice” the survey data to find out what was working well, and where intervention was needed most.

“We had a wide range of scores when you looked at it from our business areas. Our lowest were in the high twenties—and that’s something you need to do a lot of work on,” Stibitz said. “Our highest were in the eighties—so they were doing pretty good.” In addition to a large spread in satisfaction with service delivery, DTMB also noted that relationships with certain agencies were quite diverse.

The results of the survey guided the creation of a strategic plan for the agency, which includes improving on a number of key indicators in the survey—most strikingly, DTMB wants to increase the customer satisfaction by at least 9 points every two years using the survey as a roadmap. Over the last two years, DTMB leadership has prioritized lean process improvement to services for groups that were not performing well and facilitated better communications with agencies where relationships were particularly strained. 

This month, DTMB is launching the second iteration of its survey, and is hoping to significantly improve overall satisfaction. “Anecdotally, my gut tells me they will go up,” Stibitz said. “At the end of the day, whether they go up or not, what we hope to get is more data to say, ‘we’ve done something over the past two years as a results of the last survey, and—were we doing the right thing?’”

“Regardless of the outcome, we’re not done working. We’re going to continue to try and improve that. We expect to do it again in two years and two years after that. This is our business and there’s no way to walk away from talking to your customers and understanding your customers.”

For more on the survey results and how DTMB is using them to improve services, check out our video interview with Stibitz.

Mitch Herckis is the Senior Director of Programs for Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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