850 words (10 minutes reading time) by Colin Weatherby and ChatGPT
A passage from The Book of Local Government:
“And lo, the Local Government was filled with aspirations for the community. But when the State government imposed a rate cap, limiting their capabilities, the leaders knew they must align their aspirations with their limitations through strategy. And Richard Rumelt, a wise strategist, spoke unto them saying “A good strategy addresses the most important and high stakes challenges through a coherent set of analyses, concepts, policies, arguments, and actions.” But many Local Governments strayed from this path, with strategies that lacked a clear central idea and failed to address important problems or opportunities. And Rumelt warned them “If thou fail to identify and analyze the obstacles, thou doth not have a strategy, but instead a stretch goal, a budget or a list of things thou wish would happen.” And the leaders heeded his words, and developed a good strategy to overcome their challenges.”Source: ChatGPT
I have been inspired for the title of this post by John Lewis Gaddis, who says strategy is necessary for ‘the alignment of potentially unlimited aspirations with necessarily limited capabilities’. It is strategy that aligns our most important aspirations with our capabilities so that we can achieve them. It is especially important when capabilities are being limited.
Local government is full of aspirations. We deliberately ask the community what they want to create a list of things to do. We don’t wait for them to tell us. Our workers are expert at identifying new needs. We like to say that we really understand community needs and expectations. I suppose, this is where the problem starts when a State government disagrees and decides that people are being charged too much for councils to meet their needs and they introduce a rate cap.
Worse still, is when the State thinks some of those needs should not be met by the council at all or they are being met in ways that are inefficient or frivolous.
“The days of ratepayers footing the bill for Arnold Swarzeneggar impersonators are over.”Labor leader, Daniel Andrews, 2014
I have recently re-read Richard Rumelt’s book ‘Good Strategy/Bad Strategy’. It is over 10 years old now and remains a classic on strategy. I also read his new book, ‘The Crux’. He has recently described his ideas about strategy as ‘challenge-based strategy’, which is useful when thinking about them in the context of local government. We have challenges.Continue reading