206 – ‘The Outstanding Organisation’ by Karen Martin.

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                         870 words

the outstanding organisation

This is a forthright and practical book full of inconvenient truths for local government. I suppose its relevance to local government depends on whether or not you believe that becoming an outstanding organisation is either possible or desirable. Karen Martin says that people know excellence when they see it and they know when they are not excellent. But do our leaders in local government?

This is another book (and I am repeating myself here) that everyone reading it who works in local government will wish they had read years ago. The key idea is that it is chaos that prevents organisations from becoming excellent. Martin says that managers and workers often don’t see the chaos or its causes. In many cases the behaviour causing the chaos is habitual and invisible. Typically, she says organisations respond to chaos by:

  • Becoming accustomed to it so that they think it is normal.
  • Recognising it but thinking that there is nothing that can be done about it.
  • Embracing it as a good thing and developing skills in coping with it.

Councils do all three to a greater or lesser extent. Continue reading

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204 – Rate capping: an update.

Posted by Whistler                                                                         900 words

service brainstorming 2

It has been some time since discussions commenced regarding the imposition of a rate cap on local government in Victoria. There have been a few earlier posts on the topic (see here, here, here, here and here). The rate cap has now been set and the process for any council seeking an exemption from the rate cap has been communicated. The Essential Services Commission has been effectively positioned as a regulator for local government. So what have councils been doing?

I would say not much. The requirement that the community support must be demonstrated if seeking an exemption, coupled with 2016 being an election year, has stifled activity across the sector. According to The Age newspaper 21 councils have indicated they may apply for an exemption. Some councils, including Melbourne City Council, have attempted to demonstrate community support for their rating strategy, which could support an application for an exemption from the cap.

The results from the few people’s panels held have been interesting but not unexpected. The community expects the council to use current resources well before asking for more. They want to see value for money before they will support asking people to pay more tax. Fair enough. Continue reading

105 – Some characteristics of services demands that are important.

Posted by Lancing Farrell                                                              1100 words

operations typology 2

Image from Operations Management, 1998.

Some time ago I posted on high performance job design using four characteristics or spans; control, accountability, influence and support. At the time I linked the concept to the operations typology describing four characteristics of design of operations for high performance. This post picks up that discussion to look at the characteristics of demands that it is essential to understand if you want to design and manage your operations for high performance or excellence in local government.

A number of recent books on public sector management have discussed demands and how it is essential to understand them in public services because payment is not made at the time of service consumption and, therefore, price does not directly influence the amount and nature of demands placed on the system.

In his Vanguard Method John Seddon describes the importance of fulfilling purpose if failure demand is to be avoided. He also talks about understanding flow in relation to how work enters a system. Both of these ideas relate to demands. If purpose (i.e. the value sought by someone or their demand on the system) is not correctly understood the work system will not meet their need. They will come back.

Mark H. Moore includes operational capacity in his ‘strategic triangle’ concept linking decisions from the authorising environment to the public value provided. An organisation must have the operating capacity (or capability as Moore describes it in his earlier book Creating Public Value) to deliver on the political commitment to create particular public value. Continue reading

95 – Making high performance happen through value-led management.

Posted by Lancing Farrell                                                                              850 words

tug of war

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

70 – What does ‘meeting expectations’ really mean? A performance appraisal story.

Posted by Whistler                                                                     375 words

apple on teachers desk

Image from http://bellasvitas.blogspot.com.au

I have been reading Lancing Farrell’s posts on performance appraisal with interest. I am sure everyone has a performance appraisal story to tell. A colleague was telling me about her performance appraisal in which she ‘met expectations’. What does that really mean?

Her performance review outcomes possible were on a five point scale – does not meet, partially meets, meets, exceeds, or significantly exceeds expectations. For each outcome there was a definition. The definition for ‘meets expectations’ gives you an idea about the rest. Continue reading

67 – Design a management job for high performance. Part 1 – some theory.

Posted by Lancing Farrell                                                              1250 words

sliders

In the previous post I discussed a tool that you can use to test your current job design to see whether it has been designed for high performance. In this post I will elaborate on the theory behind the tool. This is a long post but I didn’t want to split the story. Sorry. In the next post I will attempt to apply the theory to the design of three local government management roles that I am familiar with.

Simons’ starting point in discussing the design of high performance jobs is failure to implement strategy. Why is it that organisations with clear strategy, access to resources and developed relationships still fail? He points out managers being too complacent and slow to respond, instead of being entrepreneurial. Problems coordinating activities across functions. Decision making is fragmented. Costs are excessive and eroding surpluses. When these symptoms become evident senior managers start to wonder whether they have put the wrong people in critical jobs. However, Simons says that the problem is systemic across the organisation. Continue reading

66 – Is your job designed for high performance? How can you tell?

Posted by Lancing Farrell                                                                                              500 words

sliders

I have posted previously on high performance local government organisations (see here and here). Have you ever wondered whether or not your job has been designed? Did someone sit down and decide on the role your position must play for the organisation to be successful? Were the resources you have been given, the goals you have been set, the decisions you have the right to make, or the relationships you have with others in your organisation been carefully selected? The chances are they weren’t. Continue reading