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|Editions > 2005 > October||Wednesday May 22, 2013 - Melbourne Time: 16:58:42|
Future directions in best practice
An interview with Brent Arstrong, General Manager at Hobart City Council, Tasmania
Brent Armstrong believes that to drive consistent and sustainable improvement, organisations need to have a clearly defined direction that is understood by all, and a planned and systematic approach to improvement.
“Best practice can then be achieved across the range of service delivery and organisational development activities, not just for one off specific projects,” he said.
As General Manager of Hobart City Council, Brent Armstrong is responsible for the City’s overall management. He is assisted by eight Directors and some 600 employees.
Brent’s career in Local Government began in 1973 when he joined Clarence Council. He has been with Hobart since 1985, first as the Deputy Town Clerk and since 1997 as the General Manager. Brent Armstrong said the role of a CEO is to achieve above average performance from all the resources available.
“Experience has shown that an organisation subjected to constant upheaval through poorly planned change and imposition of yet another management ‘fad’ becomes cynical, demotivated and performs poorly,” he said. “Change becomes ‘tokenism’.”
Brent Armstrong said that sustainable continuous improvement should be nurtured and reviews should take place in a non threatening environment, which engages all employees and allows the organisation to develop as whole.
“Our approach has been to adopt the Australian Business Excellence Framework [ABEF] and to couple this with the integration of Quality Assurance certification for all of our activities,” he said.
Hobart committed to the ABEF in 1998 and has worked to integrate the principles of business excellence into all workers’ daily working lives.
“The level of improvement and development of the organisation in that time has been outstanding and as a result, we were recognised with a Silver Award at the Australian Business Excellence Awards earlier this year,” Brent Armstrong said. “The key to this success has been through incremental change and the creation of a ‘critical mass’, whereby improvement has become a day to day activity of all employees and not just a special project.
“I would expect that a number of Councils might not have the luxury of time, or support for incremental change. In my experience, however, best practice across all aspects of our businesses and in the development of our organisations cannot be bought off the shelf and installed overnight. There must be development of a model which suits individual needs and a genuine commitment to the agreed process, first from the CEO and senior management, followed by a determination to ‘stay the course’ on the improvement journey.”
Brent Armstrong believes the achievement of best practice is critical to the long term survival of all Councils.
“Remaining relevant to communities is the key to a sustainable future,” he said. “If you are not delivering quality services required by your community and providing meaningful governance, that relevance is lost.
“With the Federal Government considering dealing more directly with Local Government, competence and capacity will become key aspects of that relationship. Councils that cannot sufficiently demonstrate those characteristics at a local or regional level may well find they are severely disadvantaged. Building capacity and relevance through a best practice approach can only benefit Councils in the longer term.”
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