The development of an agreed operating model is one of the key recommendations in the MartinJenkins independent organisational review of Kāpiti Coast District Council.
The firm's report, commissioned by council, said the high-level nature of the Long Term Plan and Annual Plan presented difficulties for staff as they sought to prioritise work, manage their workload, and understand how different initiatives and priorities fitted together.
"The default position when faced with heavy workloads is to focus on the work that is in the immediate activity plans with little time for connecting this with the work of others."
Moreover the local government environment could be "fast-changing and fluid" which further exacerbated "the workload and the challenges for focus on the planned work".
"A recurring theme in a number of interviews with managers and staff was the lack of guidance or steer to assist them to somehow navigate their way through the complexity of the work demands to achieve some balance between responding to immediate needs while not undermining the integrity of the higher plans — a means for prioritising activity.
"What seems to be missing is a bridge between the higher level strategy and its execution that enables people to make informed and confident choices on what they can and can't do, will and will not do, and who they need to be connected with to get the work done more efficiently and effectively."
An agreed operating model was recommended which "would define 'the way we work around here' for the council to achieve strategy including such things as organisational focus and priorities, collaborative joined up working, service delivery focus, key relationships and the leadership styles and practices required for success."
The review heard a range of views and experiences from current and former staff "reflecting both positive and some negative feelings about the council culture".
"Our overall conclusion is that there is a culture of committed, albeit at time fatigued, staff and management at the council who want to make a difference.
"The main internal challenges to this are unmanageable workloads, a lack of connection across teams for planning and completing work and historical issues with managing poor performing staff.
"It is important that the new leadership team and managers recognise the critical role that they play in fostering and supporting a positive culture within the organisation.
"It is our understanding that this is a key focus of the leadership team.
"We heard that there is a conscious focus on staff well-being and collaboration.
"The efforts being made to increase internal communication, manage poor performance, and develop an increasingly customer-centric, more connected organisation, support this.
"It is also important that the organisation support leaders and managers in their roles through ensuring appropriate leadership and management development training and mentoring."
It was noted that "by and large the comments to the review from current staff on the culture at the council were positive".
"People enjoyed working at the council and felt supported in their efforts."
Another recommendation favoured ditching the council's association with the name "Open for Business" as it had a different meaning which some interpreted as "open to all suggestions" but didn't reflect the full meaning which was "about service excellence aligned with ensuring the wider public good".
Other recommendations included explaining planning and decision rationale to the public, governance training opportunities for new councillors, increasing understanding between councillors and staff, leveraging opportunities for more community board support, strengthening the partnership relationship with mana whenua support, adopting a more strategic approach to workforce planning, more resources to support workforce planning, and lifting leaders and managers staff management skills where needed.