68 – Design a management job for high performance. Part 2 – some local government examples.

Posted by Lancing Farrell                                                              1000 words


In the first post I discussed a tool that you can use to test your current job design to see whether it has been designed for high performance. In the second post I elaborated on the theory behind the tool. In this post (another long one I am afraid) I will attempt to apply it to design three local government management positions that I am familiar with.

simons waste managementThe first position is the manager for waste management. Services include weekly waste collections from properties throughout the municipality, booked hard rubbish collections, and removing litter and dumped rubbish. Typically these services are contracted or delivered by a combination of council staff and contractors. The customer interaction can be done by the council or contractor.

The budgets and available resources are usually ample and capacity is well matched to service demands. It is not good if domestic waste is not collected or if dumped rubbish remains on a roadside. The service is standardised. Performance measurement is usually very precise around inputs and outputs – all collections delivered on time, customer complaints below a set level, budget costs centres not exceeded. It is a service that has historically achieved a very high satisfaction rating from communities in Victoria, although this is not usually a measure used operationally to measure manager performance. The service is clearly defined and delivered within one functional area. There are some interactions with customer service officers and occasionally with managers of roadsides or open space. The manager just has to get on with their job and remove rubbish as it is presented by the community.

simons open spaceThe next position is the manager of open space.   This position is responsible for the management of all land designated as open space. Often roadsides, grounds of buildings and vegetation growing almost anywhere are also the responsibility of this position. Typically services are delivered by a combination of council staff and contractors. Customer contact is usually directly to the council.

The budget and resources is usually large but inadequate to meet all demands for services. There are capacity constraints that challenge service levels and encourage standardisation that can create conflict with customer expectations. As many parts of the service as possible are standardised. Performance measurement is much less precise than waste management and usually involves more input measures – head count not exceeded, overall budget not exceeded, customer complaints below a set level, and services delivered on schedule. It is a service that has usually been mid-ranked in terms of customer satisfaction with council services in Victoria. It is grouped in ‘appearance of public places’.

All parts of the service are not always clearly defined. Changes in policy settings or lack of policy results in decision making in response to pressures from open space users. Maintenance is usually delivered by the manager of open space but decision on open space development could be with an urban design unit; decisions about use of open space could be with a recreation unit; decisions about enforcement of open space regulations could be with a local laws unit; decisions about sale or exclusive occupation and use of open space could be with a properties unit. Land is a contested resource and the open space manager must deal with the competing interests. There are many interactions with functional areas across the council organisation.

simons environmental sustainabilityThe last position is manager of environmental sustainability. This is a different type of position because it typically has internal and external customers. Internally, the position is responsible for improving the environmental performance of each part of the organisation and the organisation as a whole. Externally, the position usually has goals for improving the environmental sustainability of the whole community through reduced energy and water use, and waste production. Services are usually delivered by council staff supported by consultants.

Typically, there are few resources in the environmental sustainability unit. Staff are usually involved in policy development, program delivery and consultant supervision. They work across the organisation and the community on projects or programs to implement council environmental sustainability policy. Usually, they do not have control of the resources used to deliver the projects or programs (i.e. they don’t project manage capital works or administer waste management contracts). They are totally reliant on getting cooperation from others.

Performance measurement is based around precise measures driven by targets set in policy – tonnes of CO2 emissions, mega litres of water consumed, or tonnes of waste generated. Because the service is for the whole organisation and the whole community, there is a wide span of influence. The position is required to influence everyone to make more environmentally sustainable decisions about their work and lifestyle. The span of support varies and although all managers within the organisation should support environmental sustainability goals, not all do. The goals are often not included in the performance objectives of other functional areas and the managers will assist if they can but their functional responsibilities come first.

The manager of waste management needs to reliably deliver a standard service with limited customer interaction at low cost. The manager open space needs to do that, and satisfy expectations of customisation of service levels within global budgets. The manager environmental sustainability needs to change behaviour and practice to meet challenging targets.

As you can see, these are three quite different positions with different operational typologies (i.e. the degree to which services can be standardised, demand predicted and customer interactions limited) calling for different skills. You can see that different people will be required for each role and it would be an unusual manager who could do all of them well.

It is an idea related to the ‘typology of operations’ where a set of four characteristics distinguish between the different types of operations required to meet different types of demand. I have adapted it to show it in a similar format to the four spans (see below).operations typology

More on the typology of operations and its use in local government in a future post.


Simons, Robert 2005. Designing High Performance Jobs, Harvard Business Review, July/August.

Slack, Nigel, Chambers, Stuart, Harland, Christine, Harrison, Alan, and Johnston, Robert 1998. Operations Management, 2nd Edition.