Weekly column by Kāpiti mayor K Gurunathan.
During last week's briefing on the Independent Organisational Review Report, Tom Gott, Martin Jenkin's lead on this review, made an interesting observation.
He recounted two observations made by two individuals. One, in criticising council's decisions, was incensed by the number of traffic lights installed on Kapiti Rd. The other was delighted with the decision and how well the lights worked to manage traffic.
The lesson, in reference to the report, is the recognition that there will be different subjective interpretations of a reality.
It's important to note that the review was undertaken by a proven independent consultant, Martin Jenkins. We should, however, expect that there will the regular conspiracy mongers in our community desperate to argue the report is not independent.
Or even if they fail to prove this, the second tactic is to troll though the report with the aim of harvesting only the negative critical observations and highlight these in the media as the defining verdict of the report on the council.
Members of the public need to read the 96-page independent report. It's available on the council website.
The report is a well-balanced document that fleshes out both what the organisation is doing well and where it needs to improve.
My understanding was helped by Mr Gott's response to my question: What in his mind is the single recommendation that has the keystone ability to trigger a cascade of positive changes to the organisation? His response was to cite his first recommendation, ie. the collaborative creation of an "operating model" that would define 'the way we work around here'.
The underpinning data behind this shows an organisation under an enormous workload of existing planning and strategies with additional pressure from new government legislation.
A situation made worse by the expectations of elected members who are themselves reacting to community demands with some councillors not understanding the difference between their governance role and the management role of the staff.
To this, I add my own observation on the complex pressures imposed over a decade by a massive national roading infrastructure ripping through the length of the district and challenging the traditional networks of our townships.
The report correctly identifies this workload pressuring managers and staff to focus on completing the work in their own silos thus constraining opportunities for collaborative work and solutions across the organisation.
What the report could not register, however, is council's ability to do exactly that when significant challenges rise. The Covid-19 pandemic saw the organisation work across departments responding to national directions and local needs. We saw numerous examples of staff going beyond the call of duty.
Closely related to this workload pressure is the spillover effect on how the organisation interfaces with the public and our diverse communities.
The workload reduces the time and energy available for council to explain the rationale and reasons for its decisions and why some of the suggestions from the public cannot be progressed.
The operation model solution is recommended as a bridge between the high level plans/strategies and its inter connections and execution. This transparency is designed to create a better understanding between managers, staff, elected members and communities.
This will allow staff to make decisions on what needs to be prioritised over other activities with such decisions backed by clear reasons communicated to the public.
In the words of the reviewer during the briefing, there is a need to collaboratively create this operation model as a high priority and one that could be achieved within six months. I encourage you to read the report and come to your own understanding.