OP Parks revamp management structure

New plan focused on recreation, revenue, customer service

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By BILL DWYER

The Park District of Oak Park will soon begin phasing in major changes to its organizational structure intended to modernize and revitalize the district's operations, recreational programming and customer service.

At the heart of the restructuring is a move to three primary organizational teams?#34;Revenue Facilities, Recreation Programming, and Customer Service and Facility Scheduling. Responsibility for programming decisions will move from individual parks and revenue facilities to a manager of Events and Programs, who will report directly to an assistant superintendent of Recreation Programs. Programs at the Cheney Mansion and the Oak Park Conservatory will report directly to Matt Ellmann as the superintendent of Recreation.

Revenue facilities?#34;the district's two pools and the gymnastics center?#34;will be the first of the three changes phased in, starting in March. That will be followed by the recreation program in September, coinciding with the start of the school year. Balling noted that the reorganized approach to recreational planning can be seen in this spring's website layout.

The final piece, customer service, will be instituted starting in December. A completely new area of the park district management team, Consumer Service, will be tasked with assuring the consistent delivery of services to park district customers. It will also be responsible for training staff to provide a higher level of service.

"The taxpayer is our consumer, our customer," said Ellmann. Balling, who described the new approach as "cutting edge," called the customer service aspect of the reorganization the most complex. There was no model available from other park districts on which to base the new customer service department.

As part of the overall change, Ellmann said park district employees would gradually move from being "generalists" with moderate skills in a number of areas, to being experts in more sharply defined jobs. Ellmann said introducing changes to the revenue facilities first was somewhat prompted by the need to get those facilities prepared for the coming summer swim season. Staff at the revenue facilities could benefit the most from the changeover to specialized jobs. Recreational and management staff at Rehm and Ridgeland Commons pools will no longer have to concern themselves with the day-to-day challenges of the physical plants at those sites.

Under the new plan, that will be handled by two facility specialists working under the direction of a maintenance supervisor, who will report directly to the assistant superintendent of revenue facilities.

A benefit of that change, both Ellman and Balling said, will be a maximization of individuals' skills.

"They'll get to work more where their passions lie," said Ellmann.

The revamping process began in 2002 when Director of Business Operations Kent Newton conducted a community-wide survey to assess how the park district was meeting the needs of its customers.

What they found, among other things, said Newton, was too much duplication of programming, substandard customer service, and staff talents that didn't match specific programs.

In response, Balling brought back a position that had been previously eliminated, the superintendent of Recreation, which Matt Ellmann assumed in February of 2005.

The reorganization is the fruition of another community-wide survey, conducted in 2003 as part of the park district's comprehensive plan. Balling said a key piece of the new system was set in place when Matt Elmann joined the district last February.

Balling said among the benefits of the revamp will be increased teamwork, increased program variety, a decrease in duplication of services between centers, and a much improved focus on customer service.

"The needs of the consumer are constantly changing," said Balling. "We want to be able to respond to them."

Top park district management also want staff to be able to respond to the community as a whole. The new organizational structure, Balling said, will allow staff adequate time to connect with people and to look ahead to future tasks and challenges.

"The goal is to have a balanced work load that gives employees time to stay connected with people in the community, and to professional organizations," said Balling.

CONTACT: bdwyer@wjinc.com

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