Kerry-Irwin-Covid-19

COVID-19 LGA Action Plan

COVID-19 LGA Action Plan

Right now, we are being swamped by news on the spread of the Coronavirus and most of what we hear is negative. It’s easy to let the repetitive nature of news cycles beat us down and take away any positivity we may have for the future of our council, our community, our teams and ourselves.

But there is a choice to be made in this environment of overwhelming doom and gloom. We can choose to be negative and resign ourselves to giving up on our ability to provide quality services for our community or we can take this time where some services and assets – like
aquatic and leisure centres or sports grounds – are being temporarily suspended or closed, to PLAN for better times ahead!

Every council role I have ever worked in has challenged me to make time for strategic thinking, planning and action. The challenge is that council is a reactive beast and operational, day-to-day requirements and expectations quite often take up 100% of my time. So where do I find those extra minutes to think and plan or to think about how we can deliver our service differently?

For me I get started early, often hours before others arrive and the day-to-day business challenges start. I’d be coffee infused, fresh as a daisy, ready to make every second count. Spending that quiet time to think and plan changes the feeling of just treading water or worse, getting nowhere to moving towards being proactive, preventative, getting ahead of the game, making a difference, achieving outcomes, optimising efficiency and effectiveness.

I know a lot of you reading this will be saying, “I just don’t have the time” but I’m not talking about hours here. Even if it’s just 10% of your day that you allocate to planning and innovating, that could be a game changer. It could be the difference between moving through roles in council or leaving a legacy. From having left no footprint, to leaving long-term plans cemented in capital and operational budgets and empowered staff that are skilled and aligned to the direction the council is moving in and its goals and objectives.

Time to plan has always been precious to me and I’ve often wondered what it would be like to have the operational load “take a break” and give me more than 10% to future proof. Well, that time has come, yes albeit through rather unfortunate circumstances, and in no way am I making light of the state of emergency we currently find ourselves in, but while I’m healthy and I can, I choose to be positive rather than negative and pessimistic. I am seeing this time as an opportunity to plan and to deliver services differently. I am using this opportunity to be
a leader, rather than a follower.

So, if and when your council’s operational load is Corona’d, what will you do? Will you take a break, snooze or wind down? Or will you see this as the opportunity it is and get strategic. Tackle the ‘to do’ list, the ‘too-hard’ basket, the ‘if I ever get a moment’ tasks and the ‘I wish’ challenges. While some LGA operations are taking a break. This is your chance to:

1. Listen – Ask staff what’s getting in the way of achieving service outcomes, what’s getting them down, what their ideas are to achieve service needs and outcomes. This can be done via phone, video conferencing and email.
2. Innovate – identify what services you can deliver that might have to be delivered differently. Don’t be afraid to embrace technology or to “go back to basics”.
3. Dig – find past staff and customer satisfaction surveys and any other data you can find to better understand strengths and opportunities for improvement.
4. Identify – key issues and prioritise these to receive your time and energy.
5. Review – Take every past strategy, plan, masterplan, feasibility study, etc off the shelve and review. Keep, delete and prioritise. And if there is none, celebrate the blank canvas and start one.
6. Research – the trends and evidence, new regulations, acts, etc, that are relevant for your business and what responses may be required.
7. Collaborate – Discuss research findings with your team and internal stakeholders. Agree on priority areas. Look at responsible officers for the low hanging fruit and get them moving.
8. Prioritise – Get moving on business cases, funding strategies, working parties, council reports, budget submissions, policy development, strategies, engagement plans, development programs (maybe online conversations), digital transformation, marketing and promotional planning and execution, etc, etc, etc.

The world is constantly changing. We are in the midst of a pandemic, climate crisis, digital revolution. We have a new Gender Equity Act and soon to be Local Government Act. We have an inactivity crisis, growing and aging population and increased expectations around local government services and engagement.

If there is nothing to do in your department if and when the day-to-day operations cease, think again, think strategic, think proactive and preventative, start a conversation, think big, think outcomes and look at how this window of pause may be the gift your council needs to spin gold through strong planning and strategy for the future when the world around us pivots again. Be innovative. Be a leader.

And if you need help in planning and strategising then Rec People are your people. We have experts in all aspects of LG that can help you with service delivery and operations to strategy and innovation. Give us a call, or email or video connect (for the moment), but that will pass. As will your opportunity to do this work unencumbered.

 

Kerry is a respected leader in the Local Government sector having over 20 years experience across many councils from City of Yarra to Yarra Ranges and is now a valued member of the Rec People Industry Experts Team.

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