The political, societal, financial and technological changes that are taking place will continue to fundamentally challenge the taken for granted assumptions about what councils do and how they operate. If councils are to respond effectively to these challenges they will have to focus even more on not only doing things right, but doing the right things. Increasingly they will have to do the right things with others to provide access to the competencies, organisational capabilities and the capacity/resources required to meet the needs of those they serve.
Councils will need to:
- Have an internally and externally shared understanding of community needs now and how they are likely to evolve in the future.
- Have a narrative about how they see their roles, investment and performance developing, with others, to contribute to meeting the needs in (1) above.
- Develop inter and intra-organisational strategic objectives based upon (1) above.
- Develop a strategy to gain access to the competencies, organisational capabilities and capacity/resources to achieve (3) above.
- Continue to develop an organisational culture that enables them to constructively and proactively challenge taken for granted assumptions about their roles and performance to ensure that they have an external focus for the evaluation of needs, outcomes, innovation, use of resources and joint working rather than merely extrapolating the past and being a captive of previous decisions, policies and approaches.
- Objectively, individually and jointly with partners where appropriate, evaluate investment in assets and activities to ensure that performance delivers value today while developing to meet the needs of tomorrow.
While many argue for the allocation of new resources to meet the challenges identified above, and increasingly councils seek to invest in commercialisation to generate new resources, the reality is that there are opportunities to liberate significant resources from existing assets and activities to meet many current and future needs.
Councils need to systematically evaluate their portfolios of assets and activities to ensure that they are using existing resources consistent with their strategic objectives. They also need to carry out this process with their partners in the context of their shared strategic objectives. This process is represented by the acronym CIDA:
Challenge the current performance of the investment in assets and activities in the context of the strategic objectives for the future.
Identify the opportunity to liberate resources from current assets and activities for re-investment.
Decide how and when to liberate resources from existing assets and activities and how those resources are to be re-invested.
Act to liberate resources from existing assets and activities and invest them in what is required to meet the strategic objectives for the future and constantly practice systematic challenge to the need for new resources.
CIDA will challenge council’s, and their partners, paradigms, performance, ways of working, investments and quest for new resources. It, however, provides a way to ensure, and to illustrate, that current assets and resources are being used to best effect. CIDA is a powerful tool to use when arguing for new resources. Do you CIDA?
Professor Malcolm Morley is chief executive of Harlow DC and a visiting professor at Anglia Ruskin University