I participated in the City of Victoria’s Governance Review and I am happy to see that the City’s consultant, MNP LLP, has released its report. You can read it here. It is full of good recommendations and lots of food for thought.
I won’t attempt to address the entire MNP report here, but will just mention a couple of recent governance concerns of mine.
I’m hearing frustration on the doorstep about how Council makes decisions and how it works more generally. And if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll see I address governance a fair bit, and mainly in relation to City Council. e.g. recently:
A recurring theme is being in the weeds / micromanaging staff-level business:
It seems like some Councillors may not grasp, or may not like, the functional division of labour between Council and staff.
The fact is that organizations generally have a governing body that operates at a high level – monitoring the operating environment for important trends, opportunities and threats; approving the priorities set out in plans and budgets; establishing policies; monitoring and evaluating staff performance and capacity; and the like. When it comes to the relationship between Council and staff, that’s Council’s “lane.”
Implementation is up to staff. They are to achieve the established priorities subject to policy constraints. That’s what staff should be evaluated on. That’s the staff “lane.”
When governing bodies veer into the staff lane, we see impaired organizational performance and outcomes.
Last year I co-authored a letter that I submitted to Council and to MNP, as part of the Governance Review. It said, among other things:
Most important is the relationship and division of labour between Council and staff. An effective partnership requires clear delineation of roles. Council’s role should be heavily weighted toward setting overall, higher-level direction and policy. Staff – professionals in their fields – should be delegated adequate authority to effectively implement Council’s direction within the policy constraints given.
Of course, effective delegation also requires regular and thorough review of administration performance and its implementation of Council decisions and achievement of Council’s direction.
Such a governance approach, rather than a managerial / administrative approach, will help Council to adequately address emerging priorities within the constraints of available time, depoliticize implementation-level decisions, and accelerate needed improvements to our public realm.
So I was excited to see this recommendation, and some related recommendations, in the MNP report:
Given the crisis-level housing shortage, I will be particularly interested in how Council addresses the following recommendation:
As noted above, the MNP report contains a lot of other recommendations. This is important reading for those concerned about good governance, as all Councillors and election candidates should be.
I will continue to watch how the current Council performs on decision-making and governance more broadly.
I welcome ideas on governance – and all topics – from City residents. Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.