New year’s resolutions, predictions for 2016


Communicators, their teams, local government, and the public sector are changing. Less money, fewer people, greater uncertainty, and more great work. These are some of the challenges 2016 will bring. So here are ten things that might help.

1 Have an outer body experience. Step outside your team for an hour or so, and coldly evaluate yourself, what you bring to your team, and how you can improve. If your learning points are the same as last year’s, make sure you do something about them.

2 Learn to let go. The tension between wanting to manage and deliver and needing to help others outside your team to do so will become even greater. But let things go, not because you have to, but because you should do.

3 Image is everything. Video and photos are both the future and the present. How your residents consume information is changing, don’t get left behind.

4 Are sacred cows sacred? If you still do media monitoring, just stop. Now. Go on, I dare you. Nobody will die, and after a while nobody will care. Why is this channel more important than all the others?

5 Less is more. Less money, fewer people, but is there less work? Probably not. So something has to give. Now, if not sooner, is the time to think about what you will no longer do. See 4 above.

6 Knowledge is power. Make sure you give yourself time to learn from others. In person, online, wherever is best for you, but make sure you develop. Standing still is not an option.

7 Share the load. If you’re not working effectively with partners, make sure you do. If you think you are, do more. The days of ploughing a lone furrow are long gone. Working together is both better and cheaper.

8 Variety is the spice of life. Austerity shouldn’t limit creativity. Try different things, and don’t worry if some of them don’t work. Perfection is just a myth.

Ok, I know, that’s only eight. See 5. Have a great year.


Local Government: The Next Generation


Local government, and the range and method of services it delivers, has to change. We all know that, but are we actually making real change happen? Or more to the point, who is and who will do it?

I have just left a role in local government, and hope to return to a different one in a couple of months time. My reasons for leaving were to pursue a different type of career as an interim in this sector, but with or without the career change I have gone through a lot of soul searching over the past year or so.

The reason for this angst is dealing with the question of whether or not I, and particularly some of my colleagues, are the right people to lead local government through this period of uncertainty and change.

I have managed to convince myself that I am the right kind of person, but I would think that wouldn’t I? The reason for the wider question is that local government is predominantly run by ‘officers’ who have spent a long time working in, er, local government.

They have pensions to work towards, and a hinterland of days gone by when money was less tight and the sector felt it could do more. Many are used to doing things a certain way, and change of this magnitude does not sit comfortably with them.

But the world is very different now. We are constantly spouting the mantra that we have to think differently but, more importantly, are we acting differently? We are in a world where we will do less with less, but how many local government leaders are genuinely being radical about no longer delivering some services or completely redesigning the way they deliver others, including their own?

In some cases the requirement is for turkeys to vote for Christmas, but is the will and the imagination to do so inherent in many managers or leaders’ thinking?

The reason for this line of questioning is actually a positive one. There are many bright, talented, and ambitious people making their way in local government, who don’t carry the baggage of the past. And there are just as many making their way in other sectors, who could be major assets to local government. They do think and act differently without realising they are doing so.

If talent management and succession planning are going to work in the brave new world we all face, how are the new leaders going to get the opportunities to prove their worth? For every emerging star there is often a colleague standing in the way, stubbornly refusing to accept that the world has changed and yet they haven’t.

It may be time for some to step aside, to skip a generation. Longevity of service should become much less of an issue when appointing to senior roles, so that new talent can flourish alongside existing talent who have adapted to the current climate.

And some of those in senior roles should be asking themselves whether or not the future really is for them or, more challengingly, colleagues may need to have a word in their ear.

Transformation is all the rage in local government, so that the vital services that residents need can still be delivered in a seemingly endless period of austerity.

If the sector is going to thrive then it needs people at the helm who can act differently and not just pretend to think differently. If you, and even I, are those people, then local government has a bright future.