Future directions in organisational best practice

An interview with Kevin Hannagan, CEO Strathbogie Shire Council, Victoria.

A philosophy that embraces the input of people, together with the financial ‘bottom line’ reflects Kevin Hannagan’s approach to a successful municipality.

Kevin, who took on Strathbogie’s CEO role in 2001, believes people provide the edge for leading municipalities.

“While I have an eye for bottom line and financial performance, I strongly believe people are the competitive edge in today’s environment,” he said. “Having the right people, particularly for smaller rural councils, allows us to punch well above our weight.

“Recruiting professional staff to small rural councils can sometimes be difficult, and it is important that they are the right fit for the organisation and community. To be successful in any organisation, one must be able to work with the wider group to achieve corporate goals, and as such, people skills are very important.”

Kevin believes that CEOs and Local Government should be leaders in their communities.

“The role of a CEO is to be a leader, rather than a manager,” he said. “It is about developing the people under you.

“Generally, managers at level three have a primary degree in accounting, planning, or whatever area it is they are working in, but they often lack experience or background in management.

“For this reason, Strathbogie recently provided inhouse Diploma of Management training to all our managers. This has enabled them to develop their leadership skills and ensures we have a professional and productive workplace.”

Kevin Hannagan said with the Diploma of Management now complete, Strathbogie managers are undertaking a Certificate IV in Carbon Management to prepare them for the future.

“We must develop our people and give them the capacity to be at the forefront of whatever we will face into the future,” he said.

“Training of council managers allows skills to remain inhouse, instead of having to engage a consultant each time work of that calibre needs to be completed. We see it is a good investment for the future of our organisation.”

Council managed to secure four extra places in this particular course for community/business leaders. As Local Governments are often the largest industry in rural areas, Kevin Hannagan believes they need to show leadership, through initiatives such as this.

“It is paramount to be in touch with the community and its aspirations, and to communicate with them,” he said. “Municipalities should work with their local businesses to try and help them to realise their objectives and expand, so a focus on development is important.

“Equally, it is important to create the business environment to attract appropriate new industries to the Shire. Councils need to ensure they have undertaken the strategic work identifying their future growth opportunities, and they must reflect this in their planning schemes so that the community and developers know where council sits in terms of future development.”

Kevin Hannagan said good systems are key to supporting the people in organisations. He is a strong supporter of the Municipal Association of Victoria’s ICT Strategy, where 15 Victorian councils in collaboration with HCXL Axon are developing shared resourcing of all IT systems on a regional basis.

Once the regional IT infrastructure is in place, this will enable councils to implement regional working relationships for provision of regional service delivery. Councils will have the latest ‘cloud technology’ solutions at their fingertips and can gain the efficiencies without amalgamations, thus providing better services to their communities.

“Councils are businesses that use local ratepayers’, State and Federal Government funds,” Kevin Hannagan said. “Therefore, they should provide best value services. We need to ensure we are efficient, that the services we provide are responsive to community needs and we should also provide quality service.

“Accessibility and practicality of council services is also crucial.”