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'My belief is that if people are doing well, the rest will come naturally.' - Michiel Mudde, manager Public, implemented a more efficient way of working and taught a team to prioritise at the Environment Agency. He readied the team for the increasing workload created by, among other things, the energy transition.

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About environmental services
To keep our little piece of earth healthy and safe, environment services were set up a decade ago. This allows licensing and supervision to take place impartially and professionally. The Omgevingsdienst Groningen started with 135 employees and more than doubled in six years because the number of tasks increased exponentially. One of the reasons for this lies in the energy transition. Eemshaven is being developed into Europe's hydrogen hub. All this is causing an increasing workload. To change the way of working, so that the Omgevingsdienst Groningen can continue to perform its tasks without sacrificing quality, Michiel Mudde of Boer & Croon was called in. He talks about it together with Anton Klijn, head of Primary Process and deputy director of the Omgevingsdienst.

De opdracht

Anton: 'Michiel was appointed team leader of the Advice Team. This had grown into a team of four clusters, consisting of almost 40 advisers, and had actually become too big for one team leader. He therefore also became responsible for splitting it into two teams.

As the department (like the rest of the organisation) was in danger of becoming bogged down by the workload, a new more efficient way of working also had to be implemented. We were looking for someone who was a good fit for our organisation, with a high level of thinking and work. We had to be confident that he could manage this within six months. That became Michiel.'


De analyse

Personal attention
Michiel
: ´The first step was to give personal attention to the people in my team. My belief is that if people are doing well, the rest will come naturally. This personal attention also gave me a lot of insight into how change could be realised. The Advisory Team consists of enthusiastic and knowledgeable people. The motivation was there. The main concern was that the quality of the work would deteriorate.

Sharper choices

At the same time, I analysed how the department could work more efficiently. By sparring with the people in my team, fellow team leaders and Anton, it became clear that there were opportunities in making sharper choices in the work at hand, better cooperation and coordination with other teams and automating work. People were very aware of these challenges and a number of measures had already been devised. We started a process together to implement new ways of working and to learn what works and what doesn't.


'Mijn overtuiging is dat als het goed gaat met de mensen, de rest vanzelf komt.'


keuzes maken

Europe's hydrogen hub
Anton
: 'On a budget of 24 million euros, with most of it in the primary process, we achieve 85% of production, so that does indicate the order of magnitude of the challenges. Some time ago, LNG bunkering had to come ashore to replace the gas supply from Russia. Eemshaven had to be made ready for that in four months. And that was just the beginning.
Over the next three years, billions will be invested to make this port the hydrogen hub of Europe. That will have a tremendous impact on the surrounding area. Things like that are under great time pressure and need to be prioritised. If our people spend time on that, then our people cannot handle other permit applications on time.'

It could be taken down a notch

'The people are very committed to the environment and want to do their work in detail. But given the workload, we had no choice but to prioritise. Which products are really important and on which procedures can we reduce our efforts. The message was: it could be a bit less, even if there are risks involved. Everyone agreed on that, but at first it was difficult to make choices. Because basically you say: deliver the same product but with less in-depth review. That's a tricky question, because which points do you leave out? Explaining why we do this helps: reducing the workload and prioritising the most important issues for the environment. This makes the choices more bearable for us as an organisation.'

Michiel
: 'The most important step was making sure people felt comfortable not doing things. Thus, as a tool for making choices, we created a prioritisation framework for the four clusters. At some point, we just started: that way we could learn what works and what doesn't. This includes that not everything has to be perfect at once. That mistakes are allowed. This approach in turn gave us new insights that allowed us to take new steps.'


Resultaat

Get it done
Anton
: 'In just over six months, quite a change has been made and Michiel has played an important role in that. He has laid a foundation to cope with the major issues that will face the Environment Agency in the future. He was part of the Management Team and was able to help decide on the organisation's course every week. With his fresh perspective and Boer & Croon attitude, he challenged us to keep things sharp.

The ideal candidate

Now that Michiel has completed his assignment, he is being relieved by someone with a permanent position. The way he handled things has coloured the profile of the ideal candidate for us. Someone who can analyse, understands connections and has an understanding of how people work. I think it will be very interesting for such a candidate to work for the Environment Agency in the coming years. Apart from the dynamics within the organisation, it is also work that has a lot of meaning for our living environment.'