104 – Question: Are we all really that ‘special and different?’

running shoes

Editors note: This is a new type of post requesting responses from each of the regular writers and any interested readers to answering a question of relevance to the sector? It has been motivated by the realization that ‘through questions, knowledge becomes learning’.

So, the first question is:

Why do you think that councils tend to behave as though they are special and different, rather than choosing to see themselves as being similar or the same?’ 


  • Councils regularly advertise jobs for the same role but with many different titles.
  • Attempts to get councils to share services across municipal boundaries have regularly failed.
  • Efforts to get councils to adopt standard systems (e.g. finance) have been unsuccessful.

Post your answer as a comment.

3 thoughts on “104 – Question: Are we all really that ‘special and different?’

  1. Shared systems and programs often seem to come down to the drive of a motivated individual in one of the Councils. This person can use their networks of similar motivated officers (this usually works at coordinator level and below works best) to scope a program and seek funding to deliver.
    The role of such ‘champions’ appears essential for change, a lesson learnt well in the great progress made in achieving a culture change in implementing water sensitive urban design. Dr Andre Taylor’s work on ‘the champion phenomenon’ has documented this well.


    • I agree. So much depends on individuals in local government. Unfortunately, being a champion for major organisational change takes a huge effort and is difficult for people outside the Executive. I have heard of a former local government CEO who says that CEOs should (or do) spend 75% of their time managing upwards (the council and councillors) and 25% managing downwards (the organisation). Group Managers should spend their time 50/50. Managers should spend 25% managing upwards and 75% managing downwards. In this situation, if you are a manager, becoming a champion of major organisational change risks taking you away from your main responsibilities. Middle managers have the organisational networks but not the time. I think it is more difficult for Coordinators.


      • I’m wondering whether Coordinators slip under the radar. I often find the most interesting real change I’ve seen in local government has been done at the coordinator level. This is because they have direct control over the budget (unlike managers) and because the technical specialism of the coordinators allows them to apply new and more progressive approaches. Teams where I’ve seen this happen include environment teams, community development teams and economic development teams. A manager spending their time ‘backing up’ a coordinator can get great results (does providing ‘support and back up’ for your coordinator’s ideas count as managing up or managing down for a manager?).
        Needless to say, coordinators can also grind programs to a halt… But thats another discussion.


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