162 – What if local government was an Australian Rules football game?

Posted by Whistler                                                                          1100 words

AFL game

Concerns are periodically expressed about the rules in AFL football and their impact on the flow of the game and its popularity as a sporting spectacle. I understand the concern. I have some suggestions for the AFL Commission. What about changing the rules so that Australian Rules football operates the same way as local government? I think it could bring the same interest and fascination for football onlookers.

Just what sort of spectacle would it be?

For a start, the rules would need to change about the goals. Having fixed goals might enable incredible skill to be developed and displayed by players kicking from the boundary line in pockets or beyond the 50m mark, but what if the goals moved randomly?

Picture it. Continue reading

161- Decision making: Dealing with indecisiveness.

Posted by Lancing Farrell                                                                                  1100 words

dilbert indecision

This is the fifth post in a series. Some organisations, like some people, just can’t make up their minds. Ram Charan believes that leaders can eradicate indecision by changing the tone and content of the everyday conversations occurring throughout the organisation. This is difficult in local government where CEO’s and top management are often insecure and sensitive to challenge.

Breaking a culture of indecision will require leaders to challenge assumptions, share information, and bring disagreement to the surface. Charan offers the following example to highlight the signs of indecision:

A presentation is made to a meeting about a proposed project. There is silence until the CEO speaks and asks questions that show they have taken a position on the matter and made up their mind. Then others speak up to agree with the CEO, keeping their comments positive.

It appears that everyone supports the project. But, some are concerned and keeping their reservations to themselves. Over the next few months the project is slowly strangled to death.

It is not clear who killed it but it is clear that the true sentiment in the room after the presentation was the opposite of the apparent consensus.

The key issue is that the true sentiment is the opposite of the apparent consensus. Charan says that ‘silent lies and lack of closure’ can lead to a false decision that is undone by unspoken factors and inaction.

How often does this happen in local government? Continue reading

154 – “If it is easy or there is a budget, councils are probably doing it”.

Posted by Whistler                                                                                                          400 words

easy peasy lemon squeezy

The flip side of this statement is that if it is difficult or there is no budget, councils probably aren’t doing it. This is one of my most common bits of advice to residents. The reality is that councils can really struggle to do difficult things. It isn’t that they don’t want to. It is just that the system militates against it. It is worth thinking about the hallmarks of something that is difficult for local government.

It is often something that is new – something that the council hasn’t done before that has to be learnt. This takes time and effort, and can be risky. Someone could be upset by it. You might make a public mistake. I once worked for a council that wanted to be recognised as a leader, but only by doing things that other councils had already proven would work. Continue reading

151 – If local government was a car, what sort of car would it be? Part 5– the Tesla Model S.

Posted by Whistler                                                                                          700words


This is the final post in a series of five. The first review was for the Hyundai Excel Sprint council, the second was the Leyland P76 council, the third was the Volvo 240 series council, and the fourth was the Alfa Romeo 1750 GT council.

The last choice is the Tesla Model S. Futuristic, sustainable and unattainable.   This is really the only electric car that anyone talks about as if they would like to own one. With accelerations times equal to a Holden muscle car, or any other sporty fuel guzzler, they are attractive to the environmentalist car enthusiast. Put on your hessian pants, get in and floor it! Continue reading

146 – If local government was a car, what sort of car would it be? Part 4 – the Alfa Romeo 1750 GT.

Posted by Whistler                                                                                          600 words

alfa romeo

This is the fourth post in a series of five. The first review was for the Hyundai Excel Sprint council, the second was the Leyland P76, the third was the Volvo 240 series.

The fourth possibility is the Alfa Romeo 1750 GT. Stylish and fancy (and often seen with the bonnet up).   Plenty of glamour here for the ‘Alfisti’. The choice of Romeos worldwide, it was a real eye catcher that brought lots of attention. They came in bright and classical Italian automotive colours and have a great exhaust note. You wouldn’t own one to cart around your family or as your main transport to work (you needed a Hyundai or Volvo for that) but there were many weekend warriors with a 1750 in the garage. Continue reading

145 – The deep web and local government recruitment.

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                                                         1100 words

deep web

Local government executive recruitment is a game. Often recruitment is not genuinely based on competence and ability. In many cases, relationships are far more important. I have heard it described as the ‘deep web’ – what you see isn’t all there is. So, how does it work?

Councils recruiting a new CEO tend to go for ‘tried and true’ or ‘shiny and new’.  I think analysis will show an alternating pattern from one to another. It is almost as though councilors become bored with their CEO, or, more likely, the CEO refuses to do what they tell them to do. Once a CEO stands up and says ‘no’, they are likely to be on the way out.

Councilors know that they can demand that a CEO does what they want – whether or not it is in their or the community’s best interests. I think that once a council has dismissed a CEO and they have a ‘taste of blood’ they are more likely to do it again and a cycle of CEO non-reappointments and appointments begins (with all the disruption this brings).

When councils are recruiting a CEO, they rely on assistance from the recruiters – companies that specialise in helping councils to recruit executives. These companies can be highly influential. Continue reading

141 – If local government was a car, what sort of car would it be? Part 3 – the Volvo 240 series.

Posted by Whistler                                                                                          600 words

volvo 240

Some time ago I started thinking that if a council was a car, what it would be. This is the third post in a series of five. The first review was for the Hyundai Excel Sprint council and the second was the Leyland P76.

Third is the Volvo 240 series. Immortalised by Dudley Moore as being ‘boxy but good’, the 240 has carted many families around in relative safety for decades (yes decades – they last forever). No glamour here, just rock solid, dependable performance and the best safety standard available at the time. Continue reading

136 – If local government was a car, what sort of car would it be? Part 2 – the Leyland P76.

Posted by Whistler                                                                                          480 words

leyland p76

Some time ago I started thinking that if a council was a car, what it would be. This is the second post in a series of five. The first review was for the Hyundai Excel Sprint council.

The second is the legendary Leyland P76. The Targa Florio, no less. They promised so much and delivered so little. Launched with much fanfare and designed for ‘Australian conditions’, the P76 didn’t live up to expectations. It could fit a 44 gallon drum in the boot and under the bonnet it sported a V8 engine. Continue reading

133 – If local government was a car, what sort of car would it be? The Hyundai Excel Sprint

Posted by Whistler                                                                                         700 words

hyundai excel

I have often wondered what local government would be like to work in if we were making cars. For a start we would need to produce something that resembled what the customer had in mind. We would need to make sure that cars left the assembly line with all of their wheels on, with doors all the same colour, and the engine connected to the drive train. People would be more easily able to judge the quality of output.

Then I started thinking about what if a council was a car, what it would be. After a random survey of colleagues, I settled on five choices. Each car is part of the Australian motoring tradition.

Think about what car your council might be.

The first is the Hyundai Excel. Economy car choice for thousands of Australians. Economical, reliable and inconspicuous. The car to own for the budget conscious. Own one of these and, if asked, none of your friends will be able to say what car you drive. Continue reading

128 – Council superheroes. Some feedback from readers.

Posted by Lancing Farrell                                                                              300 words

reader feedback

Editorship has some privileges. I have enjoyed Linda Perkin’s posts on Captain Council and look forward to what will unfold in future posts. Captain Council has generated some interest, with a few people ‘connecting some dots’ and telling us about them.

Apparently western suburbs local print media shock jock Kevin Hillier has commented that councillors in his community have a ‘cloak of invisibility’. It seems they haven’t been as publicly accountable as he would like.

It was suggested that Captain Council might need this superpower. If he did, I am sure it would not be to hide from his constituents!

Another colleague pointed out a scholarly article written a few years ago about whether CEO’s in local government are superheroes or puppets. In the introduction, the author comments that:

“… CEO’s are required to operate across multiple dimensions simultaneously.”

This sounds like ‘shape shifting’ to me. A quick check on Wikipedia reveals that this superpower is more likely to be ‘dimensional travel’ (i.e. the ability to travel between two or more dimensions, realities, realms) or ‘omnipresence’ (i.e. the ability to be present anywhere and everywhere simultaneously). Secretly, I think many CEO’s do aspire to omnipotence.

I should probably take this article more seriously. It concludes with the view that:

“Successful CEOs share several common characteristics which reflect the ability to effectively manage along the three edges+. These CEO’s tend to possess transformational, charismatic, and almost superhuman qualities.”

It is all starting to sound a bit eerie to me, but my confidence was restored by a more thorough perusal of the article, which revealed that the research was strictly scholarly and involved nothing supernatural.

+ The concept of the ‘three edges’ was developed by Henry Mintzberg to describe the work of the public sector manager. The edges are the ‘operating edge’, the ‘stakeholder edge’ and the ‘political edge’.

Jones, Stephen 2011. ‘Superheroes or Puppets? Local Government Chief Executive Officers in Victoria and Queensland’, Journal of Economic and Social Policy, August.