By Colin Weatherby 1200 words
Occasionally someone tells you about a management book that provides insight and leads to a new understanding of what you do every day. Or what you don’t do. This is one of those books and every leader in local government should read it.
Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan have combined their knowledge of practice and theory to provide advice on linking the three core processes that they believe are at the heart of every organisation – people, strategy and operations – to get things done.
Failure to execute is a common criticism of local government. People often say that councils are overly bureaucratic, full of red tape, unable to make decisions or constantly changing them under pressure. I read the book not knowing what to expect. It is a book that really shouldn’t be necessary. After all, organisations only exist to do something and doesn’t doing something require execution?
It doesn’t take long before you realise the book is not just about doing something, it is about doing what is needed to meet your commitments and achieve the results you have promised. It is about helping leaders make commitments outside their organisation that can be delivered and ensuring that commitment obtained inside their organisation is followed through to execution. Continue reading
By Tim Whistler 1000 words
The summit offered an opportunity for those who are unfamiliar with the Vanguard method to hear about work that has been done in Australia by IOOF (a superannuation fund manager) and the County Courts Registry using the Vanguard method. Vanguard team members presented public service case studies from the UK.
It was an interesting event and it highlighted the potential for leaders to think differently and better understand how work is being performed in their organisation, what is happening in delivering value to customers, and how improvements can be made.
There were several issues relevant to local government in Victoria. Continue reading
By Colin Weatherby 700 words
I was recently talking to a colleague about local government decision making. There have been many posts on the topic (see some here, here, here and here). Our discussion turned to whether the common complaints made about the performance of councils reflect a decision-making backlog – i.e. not all the decisions that need to be made, have been made (certainly not on time).
A comment I heard from Professor Mark Moore had started me thinking about the number of decisions we need to make. He says that today a government makes 10,000 decisions each year. It would be great to know how he came up with the number. His comment was made in the context of the mandate a government takes from an election – they can only campaign on a small number of key issues, which cannot provide a mandate for all the decisions they must then make.
It started me thinking about how many decisions a council makes each year. Working out how many decisions a Council makes in the chamber is relatively easy. I am not sure how you would work out how many decisions are made by officers under delegation from the Council or how many operational decisions are made delivering services.
I started doing some sums. Continue reading
By Lancing Farrell 1200 words
Raffaella Sadun, Nicholas Bloom and John Van Reenen have written an interesting article (Why Do We Undervalue Competent Management?) that explores a deep and persistent problem in organisations across the world. This problem also manifests itself in local government.
The article is based on research over the past 16 years in 34 countries involving 12,000 organisations and 20,000 interviews (see more at http://worldmanagementsurvey.org). A strong evidence base is used in providing some clear insights into a problem that is disturbingly common.
The fundamental premise is that competent management practices make a difference to the productivity, profitability, growth and longevity of organisations.
This seems like such an obvious thing to say or write. Of course, the quality of management is critical to the performance of an organisation. After all, aren’t we are all managers and doing something that makes a positive contribution? This is where the story starts to get interesting. Continue reading
By Colin Weatherby 680 words
Lancing Farrell posted an interesting piece using Elliott Jaques’ requisite organisation theory to explain the best use of Executive time. It prompted some related thinking on my part. Jaques has provided a significant body of knowledge that can be very useful for managers in bureaucracies and hierarchical organisations.
The idea that people naturally organise themselves into hierarchical, or stratified, managerial systems in organisations reflects the reality of local government. This is reinforced by legislation that focuses accountability on top management. They are held responsible for the work outputs of people in the organisation and this responsibility cascades downwards through the management hierarchy. Continue reading
By Lancing Farrell 1800 words
This is the question that crossed my mind recently when discussing time management with a colleague who is part of an Executive team that is reviewing use of their time. They have engaged a consultant to work with them individually to understand how to best use their time. Like every Executive team, they always have more work to do than the time available to do it.
After keeping a time diary in 15 minute intervals for two days and coding up each activity according to musts, wants, work that should be delegated, and work that shouldn’t be getting done at all, it became apparent to my colleague that more efficient use could be made of available time but this wouldn’t solve the problem. Optimising use of time wouldn’t provide enough to do all the work. The nature of the workload needed to be examined.
In part this examination was prompted by the time management consultant suggesting that the time spent by my Executive colleague in meetings with direct reports could be reduced or the meetings held less often. In considering this idea, she realised that this was some of the most valuable time they spent each week. She also realised that (at the moment) she didn’t have a better use for that time. What could she do with the time that would be more valuable than influencing and helping her direct reports? This realisation started her thinking more broadly about the work she was doing.
This led her to re-examine Elliott Jaques’ work on requisite leadership. In particular, Jaques’ concept of time defining the degree of complexity in managerial leadership roles. The idea that every task has a target completion time and that the longer the time-span of discretion for tasks, the more complex the role, struck her as relevant in working out where she needed to spend her time and effort.
Jaques’ describes seven levels of organisational hierarchy, each with a different time-span of discretion ranging from 3 months to 50 years. He calls them requisite levels. Based on this, my colleague sketched out the relationship between Jaques’ theory and her work and time allocation challenge in the following table. Continue reading
Posted by Lancing Farrell 1600 words
There have been a number of posts on systems thinking examining both its theoretical underpinnings and practical application. I recently had reason to consider how systems thinking, or lack thereof, affects organisations from day to day, and the ways that systems thinking can shape or influence organisational culture.
This was prompted by an article by Brian Martens on ‘the impact of leadership in applying systems thinking to organisations’. It is a thoughtful explanation of his research and thinking.
“Systems thinking is a natural way to look at the world and all the relationships and interconnections that are involved in its functioning.”
I think it is the only way to think about leadership or management in councils because connections matter so much in delivering services that meet the expectations of recipients and because resources are scarce and must be shared whenever possible. Continue reading