Public Sector Stories, Maree Lang, Managing Director, City West Water

9 Jun 2020
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City West Water is one of three retail water corporations in metropolitan Melbourne, and we're owned by the state of Victoria. We are privileged to serve one of the fastest growing regions in Melbourne, we serve the CBD and the growing outer west and that includes nearly 500,000 homes and businesses and more than 1.1 million customers from 130 different cultural backgrounds.

Our core business is providing safe and reliable drinking water, sewerage  services, trade waste and recycled water services to our customers in the CBD and the outer west and we employ just under 500 people and we work closely with a range of delivery partners to provide a 24/7 service.

So as a leader, for me and our executive team and all of the whole business, our absolute priority was ensuring the safety of our staff and our customers. And that informed and framed all of our decision making from the initial onset of the pandemic and the issues that arose  from that, through now to how we're thinking about how we will return to the office, and how we'll continue to support our customers safely.

For our customers, service reliability came into great focus, particularly with the focus on hand hygiene and hand washing. That was at the core of the community well-being messages, the community safety messages, and we absolutely had to respond to that.And it really highlighted to our people that the role of us as an essential service was never more paramount at this time and our critical role to keep the taps flowing and the toilets flushing was paramount to continue community safety.

For our people, we've enabled nearly all of our office-based staff to work from home. We've got now over 400 pop up offices all across the city in the west, which includes our customer service centre. , We really changed our thinking around safety and well-being and we needed to make sure that we could support our people remotely.

We had to be agile and flexible, and all of those words that became ever so more important. Communication was a critical function so  we were communicating with our  people on a daily basis, through lots of different ways and channels, but also communicating with our customers and our delivery partners to really make sure that we were able to have honest conversations, and that we could support people, whatever the circumstance was emerging for them.

A big part of what we've done with customers is to listen. We’ve really needed to listen and understand how customers’ circumstances have changed as a result of COVID-19. As a business and as a leader, I really focused on ensuring that we could have honest conversations to really understand where our people were at and what was going on for them and to support people in a way that made sense.

There was a lot going on for people and we just needed to be sensible, support people and keep making good decisions with lots of uncertainty around us.

We've asked every person in City West Water to continue to deliver their essential role and their essential services and I have been so proud in how we have embraced that and how we really understood what was important and critical at this time.

Without doubt for me, one of the hallmarks of our success has been our culture, and the importance and the value we placed on personal leadership, and on our collective culture, our achievement culture at City West Water.

 That's enabled us to move fast, to take some sensible risks, but also to really hold safety and well-being absolutely in the heart of what we do and how we make decisions across this time.

Through the COVID-19 period, and as a result of the challenges and the ways we've had to adapt, I've seen many examples of us learning, growing and shifting into a much more connected business, and a more connected and resilient team.

And that's just been fantastic to see, that we've pivoted our approach from crisis management to a sustainable model. Thinking not just about business as usual or going back to work, but thinking about a new normal, about how we can retain flexibility, how we can continue to embrace fast tracking digital projects, and how we can continue to be really supportive and adaptive for our customers.

 To me that has been reflective of our culture, but also how we want to build out our culture from here and we've been building and rebuilding our culture across this time.

 I've been so proud in the way in which we've managed and led ourselves.