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A New Road for a New Division

July 31, 2017 - 1:46pm

From left to right: Leah Lagacy, Kristin Bruce, Brandon Harris, Debora Senger and Karen Grant

Brandon Harris took the reins as Director of the newly formed Roadways & Operations (R&O) division in August 2016 and as is customary, with the new leadership came a new vision for the workgroup. Harris says, “I want this team to focus on planned, strategic innovation that engages citizens and interest groups, rather than coming up with the ideas ourselves”. In the following 10 months, Harris’ team built momentum behind this vision with a number of new initiatives focusing on community engagement and the City of Saskatoon’s (City) Continuous improvement Strategic Goal.

Traditionally, the R&O division was kept busy just focusing on getting the job done for citizens using tried and true methods, as a result, community engagement was not necessarily at the top of the Roadways & Operations division’s list of “to-do’s”. But when City Council approved a request to support a project to talk to citizens about winter mobility challenges and ideas for improved service in the future, the list changed and the Snow & Ice Service Design Project was born.

The Service Design method is about creating citizen-centric programs by involving those who use a service in design and improvement conversations to create a more relevant service that meets real needs instead of just adding on “more of the same”. Harris with previous experience leading Service Design projects, rounded out his project team with Leah Lagacy, Administrative Assistant; Karen Grant, Acting Communications and Marketing Manager; Debora Senger, Communications Consultant; Kristin Bruce, Performance Improvement Coordinator; and Doug Fast, Fast Consulting. The project supports the City’s Moving Around and Quality of Life Strategic Goals and the team kept this top of mind throughout the planning stages.

The Snow & Ice Service Design Project had three phases: a public survey, a citizen co-design event, and an execution phase. To-date, the survey and co-design event have been completed.

The Snow & Ice Survey was open for 30 days in March and yielded nearly 1,800 responses, three of which were in languages other than English, a first for the City of Saskatoon. Highlights from the results included:


BW survey

  • More than half of participants agree or strongly agree that winter service levels should be increased, even if it means increasing taxes or impacting the environment.
  • The most important issues for ensuring winter mobility were sanding and salting of intersections and curves, clear driving lanes, and clear sidewalks.

Data from the survey was used to inform discussions at the citizen co-design event held in April.  Participants representing various community interest groups were asked to step into the shoes of residents and business owners, understand the challenges they face every day to come up with innovative ideas to modify existing programs or pilot new initiatives to improve winter mobility for all residents. Harris remarked, “We had excellent turnout and participation.  Despite representing different interest groups, everyone dove right in to collaborate on solutions that will benefit citizens and businesses in our community”. This was a tall order for a three hour session on a Tuesday night, but the diversity of the event’s activities helped to keep participants engaged and get creative ideas flowing.

Overall the event received positive feedback. Lagacy adds, “It has been encouraging, as we move through the project, to have been commended by the stakeholders involved on the consultation process.  Participants loved the originality of the activities and exercises and the diverse group led to good results with some new ideas for our team to work through.”

The team is working on the execution phase of the Snow & Ice Service Design Project; focusing on developing internal innovation teams to investigate the feasibility of improvement ideas. Feasible ideas then move into a prototyping stage to be tested and successes will be implemented in the upcoming winter season.

Another example of R&O’s commitment the Strategic Goal of Continuous Improvement is Project Innovate. A joint initiative with the Water & Waste Stream division empowers staff at all levels to submit ideas to improve everyday work processes in the two groups. Ideas range from improvements to safety, saving staff time, reducing environmental impacts, to saving money. To-date more than 15 ideas have been submitted and two are in the final stages of implementation.

Finally, ensuring the R&O workgroup has the best technology and tools to do quality work for citizens is another example of the on-going work Harris is leading under the Continuous Improvement umbrella. Highlights include:

  • Blue flashing warning lights added to snow plows increase visibility and improve safety for staff and citizens;
  • A pilot study with the Saskatchewan Centre for Excellence for Transportation and Infrastructure and the University of Saskatchewan to create a “smart” Road Weather Information System to improve the effectiveness of winter maintenance efforts, optimize salt usage and get important road safety information to residents as soon as possible;, and
  • Adopting a GPS automatic vehicle location system to improve staff safety and increase work process efficiency.

To hear more about exciting on-going changes  with the R&O Division check out the video below.


Brandon Harris

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