198 – Essay No. 5 – Local government and leadership.

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                                         1300 words

Mark H Moore strategic triangle

Mark H. Moore’s ‘strategic triangle’ – the basis for value-led public sector management

I have been thinking about leadership a lot recently. It has been a recurring theme in posts on this site. Reading Jeffrey Pfeffer’s book has challenged my thinking about how leaders work and what motivates them. It has reinforced some of my scepticism about leaders and why they do what they do. I tend to agree with Peter Drucker’s questioning of the distinction between leadership and management. Ultimately, organisations, particularly in the public sector, have to be managed. The idea that somehow managers aren’t leaders or that leaders aren’t managing doesn’t make sense.

Having said that, I can think of organisational leaders I have known who couldn’t manage. At some point they just ticked the leadership box and assumed the position! Pfeffer explains how and why everyone then goes along with it. Once you are a leader it seems you can get to stay there without any real scrutiny and accountability for your performance. That has definitely been my experience in local government.

I keep imagining myself working in an organisation with an effective leader who manages the organisation for high performance (not career advancement). One that provides clear strategy, direction and goals.  One who coordinates effort to  across the organisation to achieve those goals. In particular, I have been thinking about how they could do that in local government. Continue reading

46 – Labor’s rate cap to hurt services and infrastructure, ratings agency warns’. The Age, 27 February 2015.

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                         900 words

 slices of cake
Image from http://www.that-is-good-crap.com

This article follows an earlier piece in The Age,  ‘Plan to cap council rates at inflation could lead to service cuts and job losses in Victoria’ on 23 February 2015. Both articles are about the planned legislation in Victoria to restrict councils to rate increases at or below the Consumer Price Index from 2016 unless they seek an exemption from the Essential Service Commission. Some councils have already started to cut jobs to reduce expenditure ahead of rate capping. Others are forecasting cuts to their services and reduced maintenance or renewal of community infrastructure.

This is occurring at the same time that the State government is shifting more costs onto councils and national grants to councils are being frozen. I have previously posted on rate capping (see here , here and here). As you can imagine, rate capping is dominating talk within local government circles. Continue reading

39 – Applying the public value scorecard in local government services. Part 2.

Posted by Lancing Farrell                                                                                             780 words

This post continues discussion of the Public Value Scorecard by looking at the scorecards for legitimacy and support and the operational capacity.

Legitimacy and support scorecard

This scorecard links the external demands accountability in the authorising environment of the organisation, with ongoing public discourse on public value. The demands for accountability in the public sector are continuous and come from several sources. Individuals complain or join forces with others to form interest groups. The media amplifies the complaints of individuals and groups. Councillors represent their constituents and demand accountability. The Ombudsman, Auditor General and Local Government Inspector are powerful external sources of accountability. The real problem is that demands for accountability come from many different places and focus on different aspects of performance. Some are more disciplined and consistent than others. Continue reading

38 – Applying the public value scorecard in local government services. Part 1.

Posted by Lancing Farrell                                                                                              700 words

There have been a number of posts on public value (use the theme ‘public value’ to find them).  The idea that is is important and how it relates to private value has been discussed.  This post looks at how public value can be measured using the Public Value Scorecard. 

According to Mark H. Moore, public managers can improve the performance of public organisations by committing to the discipline of a public value ‘bottom line’. In the private sector, the ‘bottom line’ is a compelling and effective business concept. This post discusses the practical application of Moore’s public value scorecard in local government. Continue reading

33 – Developing an organisational performance measurement system. Some ideas.

Posted by Lancing Farrell                                                                                     820 words

I have been thumbing through ‘Improving Performance – How to Manage the White Space on the Organisation Chart’ by Geary A. Rummler and Alan P. Brache, in particular the chapter about performance measurement. In it they describe measurement is the single greatest determinant of an organisation’s effectiveness as a system, and as the primary tool for ‘communicating direction, establishing accountability, defining roles, allocating resources, monitoring/evaluating performance, and taking improvement action’.

I haven’t seen a local government that has actively used performance measurement this way. Instead, it tends to be driven by external accountability requirements. We use the performance measurement that we do to convince others that we are doing what we should. Continue reading

31 – Measures, targets, KPI’s, KRA’s and CSF’s. What are we talking about?

Posted by Lancing Farrell                                                                              740 words

There is a lot of talk in the public sector about measurement. Some people say that you ‘can’t manage what you can’t measure’ or, ‘what gets measured, gets done’. There is no doubt that measurement is inextricably linked to the pursuit of better performance and greater accountability. In local government, we seem to be desperately looking for things we can measure that will tell us how well we are doing. But are we measuring the things that count? Continue reading

15 – Interested in local government management? Four books you should read and why. Part 1

I like to read. I know that not everyone else does and when you know someone who reads and likes to talk about it that it can be a bit painful. Nonetheless, I am going to do it again. This post is about the books that I discovered and found interesting in 2014 – books that should influence management in local government. I think they contain relevant and useful ideas to improve what we do. Ideas from all of them feature in posts.

1. Recognising Public Value by Mark H. Moore. Published in 2013, this book expands on the thinking in his earlier book Creating Public Value (published in 1995) in which he described the aim of managerial work in the public sector as ‘creating public value for the community’. This is the equivalent of managers in the private sector creating private value for shareholders.   He says “… it is not enough to say that public managers create results that are valued; they must be able to show that results obtained are worth the cost of private consumption and unrestrained liberty forgone in producing the desirable results. Only then can we be sure that some public value has been created.”

In his latest book, he takes this idea further to show how public value can be recognised and measured. The central idea is that the public sector can create an equivalent to the ‘bottom line’ available to the private sector. To achieve this, Moore has developed the ‘public value scorecard’, based on the idea of the balanced scorecard, containing a ‘public value account’ (a clear, explicit and measurable statement of the public value they have created and the costs involved in creating that value); measures of the organisations standing with the stakeholders providing social legitimacy and authority; and measures of the organisation’s ability to deliver the outputs required to achieve the desired public value.

In developing his case for the public value scorecard, Moore covers a wide range of issues, including discussion about private and public value; arbiters of value; costs of using public authority; sources of accountability for the public sector (very interesting reading); the public value chain; and the importance of performance measurement. Both of Moore’s books use case studies to illustrate his ideas, which makes the practical application of his thinking easier to understand. This book should really be compulsory reading for anyone in a leadership role in the public sector because it provides a practical, high-level framework for thinking about why a public organisation exists, what it intends to achieve, and how that can be measured.

2.  The Whithall Effect by John Seddon. Published in 2014, this book consolidates much of John Seddon’s writing about the public sector. If you have read his earlier book Systems Thinking in the Public Sector (published in 2008) you will be familiar with many of the ideas. There are five sections in the book. The first covers the ‘industrialisation’ of services and the many misconceptions that Seddon believes are evident in current service design and improvement, especially those borrowed from manufacturing. The second covers his approach, including his ‘Vanguard Method’ used to understand the current situation before improvements are made. The third section is a critique of government ‘reforms’ of public services that have not produced the results expected. The fourth section addresses current ‘ideology, fashions and fads’ in public services. The last section has his recommendations for change in Whitehall to improve public services in the UK. Overall, the book covers a lot of material, much of it supported by case studies.

Seddon is highly opinionated and critical of failings in government policy and action. This doesn’t detract from the fundamental messages in this book; services need to be understood as a system and there are (more) effective ways of doing this; interventions in service systems should be planned and use knowledge of customers, demands and work flow to inform them; measures must be relevant to the customer and used by the people delivering the service.

In a very practical way, Seddon provides tools for taking Moore’s ideas about public value into action. Seddon is much more focussed on private (customer) value, or the customer-defined purpose, and would no doubt argue that fulfilling purpose is a form of public value. In a way, I think ‘public value’ is just ‘purpose’ writ large. This book should also be compulsory reading for all leaders in the public sector. The ones who read, anyway. Firstly as a tale of what happens when changes to services are predicated on political, and not customer or public needs; secondly to provide a way to understand services as a system; and lastly to reinforce the importance of effective measurement of performance.

More books in Part 2.

Lancing Farrell