Work in progress
Almost a year ago, in an article entitled ‘The fish rots from the head’, I spoke of the critical role governance plays in every organisation, and therefore the need for good governance.
The title came from a book by Bob Garratt on governance in organisations. It noted that an organisation generally first starts to fail from the head, its board of governance.
Council is no different, but unlike organisational boards, which go through a rigorous process of selecting skilled members, councillors are elected ‘from the wild’. In the same article I warned that both central and local government need to be even more vigilant in regard to improving their overall governance.
So, what have we done to date? There has been a recognition and a general agreement amongst elected members of the need to improve governance, and when setting the KPIs these were grouped into four major areas of excellence: governance excellence, customer service excellence, cultural excellence and operational excellence.
In addition, elected members participated in a governance self-evaluation process that looked at identifying individual and collective strengths and weaknesses, with the overall aim of improving performance in governance. This initiative was inspired from the findings of the LGNZ CouncilMARK programme that we earlier agreed to participate in.
The self-evaluation process was facilitated by two very skilled and experienced facilitators from LGNZ’s EquiP. Our aim was not only to improve governance, but also to enable personal governance reflection in areas that needed to be improved, and encourage elected members to improve their skills.
This is an excellent first step, and its significance and value should not be underestimated, but more is needed. Several longterm recommendations, which will be going to all of council for adoption, will, as they are completed, see a measurable improvement in overall governance and therefore the performance of council.
For example, let’s put in place a comprehensive induction process that will inform and better equip newly elected members at the beginning of each triennium. Why not require every elected member to attend at least one training course in governance, helping them to improve areas of weakness? Why not expect and help councillors to build supporting networks, professional contacts and mentors?
It is my dream to see the FNDC the top-performing council in New Zealand. By setting a clear vision, goals, strategy, and measuring our progress, I believe this aspirational vision is achievable, with help.
Sure, we have major challenges. We only need to ask ratepayers how we are performing in the four areas of excellence to discover that. But another key ingredient is needed, and that is you. We need your help and support, particularly in choosing wisely those to govern council, but most importantly recognising the importance of good governance and expecting better governance from those elected to govern.
"Why not expect and help councillors to build supporting networks, professional contacts and mentors? "