Posted by Lancing Farrell 580 words
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
Posted by Lancing Farrell 650 words
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
Posted by Lancing Farrell 850 words
Some time ago I posted on Frank Ostroff and the barriers that he believes prevent change in government . Ostroff makes a lot of sense – formulate a vision, be mindful of your present situation, seek the support of stakeholders, set a clear path, understand the complexity in what you are doing, and hold people accountable. However, I have found that sometimes you need a simple tool to take those ideas into practice. I was once asked by a CEO.
‘How do you get people to fundamentally re-think what they are doing instead of making incremental improvements to optimise what they are currently doing?’
Maybe this is the answer. Continue reading
Posted by Lancing Farrell 600 words
In a recent discussion with a colleague she mentioned that in her previous employment outside local government they had set organisational performance goals for leadership, finances, relationships, safety and operational excellence. Each area of performance was rated equally. It started me thinking about how little you hear about operational excellence in local government. Is that because it doesn’t matter?
I am sure that operational performance matters. Whether councils want to be excellent or not, I am less sure. I think that the reason it is seldom discussed is that few people have a real understanding of operations management or what excellence would look like or how to achieve it. Continue reading
Posted by Lancing Farrell 650 words
This is the last post in this series. It is also where things start to get interesting. There are alternatives to performance appraisal the way we have always done it. The difficulty is that most are quite different to the current approach and pursuing them will involve the risks that always accompany change. Are we up for it?
We could just stop using performance appraisals. As Peter R. Scholtes writes in The Leaders Handbook, this would require us to start thinking differently. In essence, this would involve adopting a ‘systems thinking’ approach to managing the organisation. This is likely to require systems to support employee development and promotion, providing feedback for improvement, determining training needs, and performance managing the poor performers.
Scholtes proposes what he calls ‘debundling’ of performance appraisal to focus on each benefit that the performance appraisal system supposedly provides. Continue reading
Posted by Lancing Farrell 530 words
Choices are necessary regarding the role of performance appraisal and how it will be done. I don’t think anyone thinks that performance should not be measured. It is a matter of how you do it.
Peter R. Scholtes points out the fundamental choice facing every organisation very clearly in The Leaders Handbook. What is most important to your organisation – controlling the behaviour of people to the satisfaction of management, or understanding, controlling and improving processes to benefit customers? Continue reading
Posted by Lancing Farrell 700 words
This is the first in a series of four posts on performance appraisal. The central idea is that current performance appraisal systems are not effective.
To begin with, the annual performance appraisal process (sometimes called the performance development plan (PDP) or staff development scheme (SDS)) is often not carried out in local government. When it is, people have usually been compelled to do so or they are simply ‘ticking the boxes’ and being compliant. I have often thought that this is important evidence that the process is not helpful. People ‘vote with their feet’ – if they thought that performance appraisal was useful and that it added value, they would be doing it.