Monday, March 15, 2010

Super City Job "Lolly Scramble" not always sweet...

The Sunday Star Times had a bit of a scoop this weekend when it published information about the process the Auckland Transition Agency (ATA) is running to staff up the jobs that will need to be filled at the new Auckland Council, and its CCO's, well before October this year.

The article states: "...nearly twenty times more applications received than positions available..." And contains interesting details about applications for the first three tiers of management. (By the way, other ATA documentation suggests that Auckland Council will have SEVEN tiers. That is a very hierarchical structure - see more about this below.)

The SST article states: "...by Thursday, when applications closed for 25 'tier 3' senior management jobs across the new Auckland Council, 390 people had applied. At the next level up, 100 people have applied for three 'tier 2' roles reporting directly to the chief executive. Another 28 people have applied for one job of Interim Chief Executive...."

What is interesting about all this, is that this hierarchical structure, and the way it is going to be populated, has been designed by relatively faceless people at ATA. Let's think about hierarchies for a minute: The Auckland Regional Council has a 4 tier structure today, though under the previous Chief Executive - Jo Brosnahan - it had a 3 tier structure. It was, and still is, a relatively flat structure. I am advised that one of the benefits of a flat structure is that it is attractive to creative and highly motivated staff who feel they are not simple cogs in a machine, and who appreciate the easy access to senior members of staff who themselves have greater responsibilities because teams tend to be larger and so on.

I understand - for example - that one of the consequences of the ARC restructuring (which followed Peter Winder's appointment to the post of CEO of ARC), was that several regional experts quit the ARC. Some of these are still in the region working as consultants, but others have moved on. Of course there will be split opinions about the precise reasons for these personal changes, but my understanding is that generally, the Jo Brosnahan era at the ARC was one which emphasised Excellence and Technical Leadership. The objective was to position the ARC as the thinking leader behind Auckland Region. And to an extent that objective was fulfilled. I was certainly very aware of that culture and that feeling when I was elected there in 2004, and was impressed with the calibre of technical staff there.

It is often said that Councils get the planners and the engineers and the scientists that are not good enough to be employed by the BECA's and the OPUS's and all the rest of the private sector expert consultancies. But it's only when you work with Council staff that you find out there are some extremely competent officers working for Councils. They are aware that could earn more in the private sector - rather than for a council - but they choose to work for a council for a range of other reasons including: job satisfaction (you get to do some very interesting work at a council); job variety (expert council staff get to work on a range of jobs at one time - which suits them - they can handle and enjoy that stimulation); part of a team (when I was at North Shore City Council I was particularly aware of the quality of work, thinking and creativity from the Environmental Protection Team, and from the Three Waters Team); and opportunities to work in new specialist areas.

Council project and service work was like a vocation for them. Their passion and commitment was evident. They repaid the freedoms that went with the jobs they had, with enormous energy, and sometimes hours above and beyond the call of duty. This kind of give and take goes with a creative structure and organisation, and one that is responsive to the needs of its staff.

I believe this culture is under serious threat with the structure that is being populated now by ATA. There is a chill in the air. Everyone is being very positive at the ARC where there are still many highly motivated and competent staff. Most of these would be at the tier 3 and 4 level of the proposed Auckland Council. I talk to some of them, and they are pretty talkative about the process they are going through now. One was part of a group of managers from all of Auckland's councils that were invited to a meeting at the Aotea Centre by ATA. The purpose of the meeting was for them to receive a presentation about the proposed structure, which also went into some detail about the jobs and positions that would be established. He told me it was a bit wierd looking around and seeing how many managers there were. He did a rough count. He also did a rough count of the jobs on the big screen. "Only about a quarter of us will get jobs", was his opinion.

And they all went back to their offices and sat down in front of a computer screen to "be mapped". This involves interacting with a computer program which asks questions about your skill areas, and asks you to self assess. What percentage of your job is X, what percentage Y and so on. Pretty anonymous and soul-destroying stuff. I appreciate that this method does enable a degree of self assessment, and that it is in reasonably common use when private sector companies have reshuffles and reorganisations.

In the case of Auckland Local Government, every organisation (with the exception of Watercare) is being abolished. Wound up. And this means that every employee is looking for another job. An enormously stressful experience for thousands of individuals.

I know it's not lambs to the slaughter, and that's not the purpose, but - going back to that SST article we read: "....According to a back-of-the-envelope calculation by the Public Service Association, the average redundancy would be about $18,000..."

People I know in the HR industry have described the processes that are typically experienced in organisations like Air New Zealand or Vodafone. Middle managers are treated extremely well during change. Instead of computer mappings, they are interviewed and assessed through human processes. They have access to skilled advisers. It seems to me that this a far cry from what Auckland council managers are being put through.

As one who is planning to stand for Auckland Council, and one who has a history of trying to get to grips with issues by talking with Council staff, I do wonder how easy it will be to do that with this massive and deep structure, wheels within wheels....

And I wonder how many of our very best people will walk away from Auckland Local Government. Either because they don't get mapped right, don't get treated right, or because they take a look at the job slot that has their name on it, and decide it doesn't offer the qualities that they have come to appreciate where they are now.

"Well", people say to me, "you can always change the structure when you get in there, can't you?" Yeah - Right. Imagine the new Auckland Council deciding it wanted a flatter management structure. Say - 4 tiers - to encourage innovation and team building. That sort of thing. There would be bedlam. Councillors wouldn't know where to jump. They'd say, "think of the costs... think of the union action... ATA's just spent millions recruiting for these positions - are you going to throw all that out the window?... what do you know anyway - they say this structure is the best for Auckland... we should really let it have some time to bed in..."

You can hear all that can't you. The truth is this structure - these structures - will become black holes, laws unto themselves - from a management structure point of view - almost impenetrable by those elected to govern them. Councillors won't be able to trust themselves to fix them. And while the only person they employ is the CEO, his or her ability to restructure the organisation beneath them will also be limited. So Auckland will inherit a structure which is concrete, and inflexible, but which will grow inexorably. This seems to be the common feature of very large bureaucracies. They grow.

The reason we are in this fix now, is fundamentally because there was a move to amalgamation. A move to merge. ARC led it with the rhetoric "the one and the many". This vision has become The One Bureaucracy (a dysfunctional entity of CCOs, Boards and a Council) and The Many Ratepayers. (I hasten to remind you that I was among those few municipally experienced ARC councillors who opposed these moves to amalgamate). The Government bought the vision (and now regrets it I'm sure). And those who think they will benefit the most continue to defend it (NZCID, Property Council and EMA).

So what is Plan B?

2 comments:

Colin said...

The number of senior managers at the Auckland Super City will apparently be 75% of the current number, according to the guy at the meeting. Such efficiency must be better for ratepayers.

The reason many engineering professionals opt to work for local government is that the commercial imperative is not a part of the job. In private enterprise, a senior manager must get new work into the company and ensure that the projects that are ongoing are profitable for the company. That is an additional pressure on top of designing a road or a water scheme. That's why local government managers should get paid less.

ahmed said...

I have gone through this blog. I found it very interesting and helpful. Nowadays I am completing my online degree course from home.
So this blog really doing great for me.


Part time jobs online

Monday, March 15, 2010

Super City Job "Lolly Scramble" not always sweet...

The Sunday Star Times had a bit of a scoop this weekend when it published information about the process the Auckland Transition Agency (ATA) is running to staff up the jobs that will need to be filled at the new Auckland Council, and its CCO's, well before October this year.

The article states: "...nearly twenty times more applications received than positions available..." And contains interesting details about applications for the first three tiers of management. (By the way, other ATA documentation suggests that Auckland Council will have SEVEN tiers. That is a very hierarchical structure - see more about this below.)

The SST article states: "...by Thursday, when applications closed for 25 'tier 3' senior management jobs across the new Auckland Council, 390 people had applied. At the next level up, 100 people have applied for three 'tier 2' roles reporting directly to the chief executive. Another 28 people have applied for one job of Interim Chief Executive...."

What is interesting about all this, is that this hierarchical structure, and the way it is going to be populated, has been designed by relatively faceless people at ATA. Let's think about hierarchies for a minute: The Auckland Regional Council has a 4 tier structure today, though under the previous Chief Executive - Jo Brosnahan - it had a 3 tier structure. It was, and still is, a relatively flat structure. I am advised that one of the benefits of a flat structure is that it is attractive to creative and highly motivated staff who feel they are not simple cogs in a machine, and who appreciate the easy access to senior members of staff who themselves have greater responsibilities because teams tend to be larger and so on.

I understand - for example - that one of the consequences of the ARC restructuring (which followed Peter Winder's appointment to the post of CEO of ARC), was that several regional experts quit the ARC. Some of these are still in the region working as consultants, but others have moved on. Of course there will be split opinions about the precise reasons for these personal changes, but my understanding is that generally, the Jo Brosnahan era at the ARC was one which emphasised Excellence and Technical Leadership. The objective was to position the ARC as the thinking leader behind Auckland Region. And to an extent that objective was fulfilled. I was certainly very aware of that culture and that feeling when I was elected there in 2004, and was impressed with the calibre of technical staff there.

It is often said that Councils get the planners and the engineers and the scientists that are not good enough to be employed by the BECA's and the OPUS's and all the rest of the private sector expert consultancies. But it's only when you work with Council staff that you find out there are some extremely competent officers working for Councils. They are aware that could earn more in the private sector - rather than for a council - but they choose to work for a council for a range of other reasons including: job satisfaction (you get to do some very interesting work at a council); job variety (expert council staff get to work on a range of jobs at one time - which suits them - they can handle and enjoy that stimulation); part of a team (when I was at North Shore City Council I was particularly aware of the quality of work, thinking and creativity from the Environmental Protection Team, and from the Three Waters Team); and opportunities to work in new specialist areas.

Council project and service work was like a vocation for them. Their passion and commitment was evident. They repaid the freedoms that went with the jobs they had, with enormous energy, and sometimes hours above and beyond the call of duty. This kind of give and take goes with a creative structure and organisation, and one that is responsive to the needs of its staff.

I believe this culture is under serious threat with the structure that is being populated now by ATA. There is a chill in the air. Everyone is being very positive at the ARC where there are still many highly motivated and competent staff. Most of these would be at the tier 3 and 4 level of the proposed Auckland Council. I talk to some of them, and they are pretty talkative about the process they are going through now. One was part of a group of managers from all of Auckland's councils that were invited to a meeting at the Aotea Centre by ATA. The purpose of the meeting was for them to receive a presentation about the proposed structure, which also went into some detail about the jobs and positions that would be established. He told me it was a bit wierd looking around and seeing how many managers there were. He did a rough count. He also did a rough count of the jobs on the big screen. "Only about a quarter of us will get jobs", was his opinion.

And they all went back to their offices and sat down in front of a computer screen to "be mapped". This involves interacting with a computer program which asks questions about your skill areas, and asks you to self assess. What percentage of your job is X, what percentage Y and so on. Pretty anonymous and soul-destroying stuff. I appreciate that this method does enable a degree of self assessment, and that it is in reasonably common use when private sector companies have reshuffles and reorganisations.

In the case of Auckland Local Government, every organisation (with the exception of Watercare) is being abolished. Wound up. And this means that every employee is looking for another job. An enormously stressful experience for thousands of individuals.

I know it's not lambs to the slaughter, and that's not the purpose, but - going back to that SST article we read: "....According to a back-of-the-envelope calculation by the Public Service Association, the average redundancy would be about $18,000..."

People I know in the HR industry have described the processes that are typically experienced in organisations like Air New Zealand or Vodafone. Middle managers are treated extremely well during change. Instead of computer mappings, they are interviewed and assessed through human processes. They have access to skilled advisers. It seems to me that this a far cry from what Auckland council managers are being put through.

As one who is planning to stand for Auckland Council, and one who has a history of trying to get to grips with issues by talking with Council staff, I do wonder how easy it will be to do that with this massive and deep structure, wheels within wheels....

And I wonder how many of our very best people will walk away from Auckland Local Government. Either because they don't get mapped right, don't get treated right, or because they take a look at the job slot that has their name on it, and decide it doesn't offer the qualities that they have come to appreciate where they are now.

"Well", people say to me, "you can always change the structure when you get in there, can't you?" Yeah - Right. Imagine the new Auckland Council deciding it wanted a flatter management structure. Say - 4 tiers - to encourage innovation and team building. That sort of thing. There would be bedlam. Councillors wouldn't know where to jump. They'd say, "think of the costs... think of the union action... ATA's just spent millions recruiting for these positions - are you going to throw all that out the window?... what do you know anyway - they say this structure is the best for Auckland... we should really let it have some time to bed in..."

You can hear all that can't you. The truth is this structure - these structures - will become black holes, laws unto themselves - from a management structure point of view - almost impenetrable by those elected to govern them. Councillors won't be able to trust themselves to fix them. And while the only person they employ is the CEO, his or her ability to restructure the organisation beneath them will also be limited. So Auckland will inherit a structure which is concrete, and inflexible, but which will grow inexorably. This seems to be the common feature of very large bureaucracies. They grow.

The reason we are in this fix now, is fundamentally because there was a move to amalgamation. A move to merge. ARC led it with the rhetoric "the one and the many". This vision has become The One Bureaucracy (a dysfunctional entity of CCOs, Boards and a Council) and The Many Ratepayers. (I hasten to remind you that I was among those few municipally experienced ARC councillors who opposed these moves to amalgamate). The Government bought the vision (and now regrets it I'm sure). And those who think they will benefit the most continue to defend it (NZCID, Property Council and EMA).

So what is Plan B?

2 comments:

Colin said...

The number of senior managers at the Auckland Super City will apparently be 75% of the current number, according to the guy at the meeting. Such efficiency must be better for ratepayers.

The reason many engineering professionals opt to work for local government is that the commercial imperative is not a part of the job. In private enterprise, a senior manager must get new work into the company and ensure that the projects that are ongoing are profitable for the company. That is an additional pressure on top of designing a road or a water scheme. That's why local government managers should get paid less.

ahmed said...

I have gone through this blog. I found it very interesting and helpful. Nowadays I am completing my online degree course from home.
So this blog really doing great for me.


Part time jobs online