Work in progress

The Northland Age - - Opinion -

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? "

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