164 – Who should push back with the councillors? The CEO, Directors or Managers?

Posted by Whistler                                                                                          600 words

chess

I think this is a good question and it is one that every manager will ask themselves at some point. It may take a bit of experience to ask it. Individual councillors regularly ask for the organisation to do things that are outside policy or they become conflicted. So who should be saying no?

In many councils there has been an organisational correction about the type of contact councillors can make with staff. Usually this happens after a councillor has attempted to influence a junior staff member to do something outside policy. When councillors complain about the staff member because they won’t do what they asked (or if the officer complains) the organisation reinforces the rule that councillors can only talk to senior officers – i.e. the CEO, Directors or Managers.

This partially solves the problem and often introduces new problems. Continue reading

163 – Decision making: Decision-focussed strategic planning in local government.

Posted by Lancing Farrell

more better faster

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This is the sixth post in a series.  Michael Mankins and Richard Steele propose an alternative model of strategic planning. They believe that strategic planning can’t influence organisation performance if it doesn’t drive decision making. And it can’t drive organisational decision making while it is focussed on individual business units and limited to an annual planning process. They describe some of the changes that organisations can make to their strategic planning to produce more, better and faster decisions.

They separate – but integrate – decision making and planning. Decisions are taken out of the planning process into a parallel process for developing strategy. Executives can identify the decisions that they need to make to create more value over time. The output of this process is a set of decision that management can codify into future business plans through the planning process. 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

156 – Decision making: The calendar effect and local government planning.

Posted by Lancing Farrell                                                              700 words

calendar

This is the fourth post in a series. Most councils prepare their plans in a very conventional way. All of the councils where I have worked have been the same. The planning process is frequently criticised but seldom challenged. There is a better way.

Despite the effort put into strategic planning by many organisations, it can actually be a barrier to decision making. Michael Mankins and Richard Steele believe that difficulties in strategic planning are attributable to two factors:

  1. The calendar effect – it is usually an annual process.
  2. The business unit effect – it is usually focussed on individual business units.

This is completely at odds with the way executives actually make important strategic decisions. They make the decisions that really shape organisational strategy and determine the future direction of the organisation outside the formal planning process. And they often do it in an ad hoc way without rigorous analysis and debate. Continue reading

155 – Decision making: Policy and decision making in local government.

Posted by Lancing Farrell                                                              750 words

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This is the third post in a series. Policy should guide local government managers and their teams in making most decisions with the confidence that if the decision is challenged it can be assessed against the policy and shown to be justified.

Some decisions won’t be able to be made this easily and a ‘one up’ escalation or other simple decision review processes should enable a decision to be made quickly and efficiently. There will be some decisions that are outside existing strategy or policy that will need to be referred to more senior management for new thinking about the decision that is required.

In a high performing organisation, making decisions that are consistent with organisational strategy, policy and plans should be straightforward for the majority of decisions. Continue reading

153 – Decision making: Some challenges for local government.

Posted by Lancing Farrell                                                                              580 words

face butt towel

This is the third post in a series.  Sometimes making decisions is difficult and a guide is helpful. Local government has some particular types of decision making that frequently present challenge. These decisions need to involve the right people at the right level in the organisation. Often they cut across functional areas.

Two of the key challenges for local government in becoming a decision-driven organisation are whether or not to centralise decision making and how to ensure cross-functional cooperation in decision making. I will start with centralisation. Continue reading

150 – ‘Muzzle on council rates’. The Age, 31 July 2015.

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                                         800 words

muzzle

The pressure is on. The Essential Services Commission has released its draft report on the proposed rate capping for councils in Victoria. It has a number of interesting elements and some significant implications for local government. The report sets out which revenues are proposed to be capped, how the rate cap could be calculated, the current forecast for rate increases to 2018/19 under the proposed system (see below), and the impact of the application of an ‘efficiency factor’ to provide an incentive to pursue efficiencies.

The article in The Age describes the major impacts.

“Victoria’s 79 councils had an average rate increase of 3.8 per cent this year. Several councils increased their rates by more than 6 per cent.

The draft report includes indicative forecasts for an annual rate cap of 3.05 per cent in 2016-17, dropping to 2.85 per cent in 2017-18 and 2.8 per cent in 2018-19.

In addition to the cap, the review calls for a new “efficiency” deduction to be introduced from 2017-18 where councils would need to reduce their rates bill by 0.05 per cent because of efficiencies (increasing by 0.05 percentage points each year). Jason Dowling, The Age, 31 July 2015.

So, what are the likely implications for councils?

There have been some previous posts on this topic (see  Council rates capped from mid-2016’, The Age, 21 January 2015 and Labor’s rate cap to hurt services and infrastructure, ratings agency warns’, The Age, 27 February 2015.). That thinking still stands. Councils will have to say ‘no’ louder and more often. Difficult choices will need to be made about what services to offer or not offer, and what the levels of service will be. Some people will no longer be eligible for services as councils start to distinguish more strongly between those who are or are not customers. Expect much more customer segmentation for services delivery. All of this will be difficult for our politicians who succeed by pleasing their constituents.

In many ways this is the easy bit Continue reading

149 – Decision making: Making good decisions quickly in local government.

Posted by Lancing Farrell                                                                              650 words

RAPID decision image

This is the second post in a series. Have you ever felt that there were too many opinions being aired and not enough decisions being made?  Making good decisions quickly is the hallmark of a high performing organisation. This includes major strategic decisions and operating decisions. It is important to know which decisions are really matter and then ensure that they don’t stall because decision making roles and responsibilities are not clear. This is the first challenge for local government.

Good decision makers think through who should recommend a particular direction, who needs to agree, who should have input, who has ultimate responsibility for making the decision, and who is accountable for follow through, and then they set a process up to make decisions.

Good decision processes then become routine and are known to everyone, which provides better coordination and faster response times. Continue reading

148 – Decision making in local government. A series.

Posted by Lancing Farrell                                                                              400 words

HBR january 2006 cover

This series of posts explores decision making in local government and the connection to planning and strategy. I have postulated for some time that the inability of council’s to make difficult decisions leads to failure to decide on strategy which prevents prioritisation of action. See what you think.

Decision making processes in local government can be episodic, slow, disempowering, inconsistent and frequently disconnected from either strategy or operational needs. Continue reading

109 – How can you influence a council decision? Some tips.

Posted by Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                                  670 words

sprinfield monorail

Hear the song.

 A friend recently asked me for advice on influencing a council decision regarding a park near his home. His council had plans to demolish an old community building in a park and allow a nearby disused tennis facility to be converted into bowling greens by the club based at the park. He disagreed with the plan and wanted to see the building retained and the old tennis courts turned into open parkland.

After thinking about it overnight I proposed the following ten actions Continue reading