Posted tagged ‘Steve Tobak’

7 Signs Of A High Performance Local Government

February 21, 2012

All organizations have their own unique culture. The culture in great organizations  is visible from how positive and engaged employees are between themselves and when interacting with customers. In a previous post I highlighted 7 signs of a dysfunctional organization.

Steve Tobak of CBS News.com wrote an article titled 7 Signs of a High-Performance Companywhich I believe  applies to local governments as well as it does to private sector companies. Tobak’s 7 signs are below:

Employees take ownership. When employees discover problems or issues, they take the initiative to ensure that they’re resolved. They don’t leave it for the next guy because it’s not their job, not their fault, or not their responsibility.

People are happy. People look and act as if they’re genuinely happy to be at work. No, they shouldn’t be running around laughing like children in a playground, but you can tell that they like what they’re doing and are having a good time doing it.

Managers are comfortable with their level of authority. They’re clear on what their authority is and they’re not resentful of what it isn’t. That means decision-making occurs at the right level, no higher or lower than it should be. Managers aren’t afraid to be overruled or second-guessed.

People are accountable. Folks say what they mean and mean what they say. They don’t promise what they can’t deliver or sandbag to get big kudos when they over-deliver. They tell you what they think they can do and are willing to be held accountable for the results.

There’s a “How can I help you?” attitude. We used to call that a customer service attitude, but it’s so much more than that. People never act put off, defensive, or interrupted by requests from anyone inside or outside the company.

Employees have a positive outlook. Whining and complaining is an epidemic in the modern business world. But there are companies where negative behavior is an outlier, meaning it stands out and is eventually flushed out, one way or another.

Things get done. Perhaps the most evident sign of a highly effective organization is that things just seem to get done. That’s because people get things done. The company operates like a well-oiled machine. Yes, I know it’s an old metaphor, but I don’t know a better one.

What do you think are the biggest obstacles that cause local governments to fall short on these 7 items?

7 Signs Your Local Government Is Dysfunctional

February 19, 2012

Leadership is about somehow getting people with different views to come together and execute on goals and plans they would never agree to on their own. Clearly, that’s not happening in many local governments.

Polarizing leadership and divisive management are real and entirely common issues that destroy organizational effectiveness and ultimately lead to operating failure in local governments big and small.  Steve Tobak of CBS News.com recently wrote an article titled the 7 Signs of a Dysfunctional Company. I have taken Tobak’s seven signs and applied them to local government, where I believe they fit as well.

Here are seven signs that your local government is dysfunctional with polarizing leadership:

Ivory tower effect. When self-important elected officials make decisions in a vacuum or otherwise barricade themselves in their offices, that creates a nasty cultural divide between management and employees. I love the show Under Cover Boss, as it shows the importance of getting to know what your employees have to deal with when performing their jobs. Not enough elected officials understand or listen to employees as part of their decision making process.

Warring factions. In some communities feuds along political party lines are common place and accepted as just the way government works. Heck as I have talked about in a previous post Democrats and Republicans are not even allowed to sit next to each other. In the City of Buffalo all nine Councilmembers are Democrats and they are split into a 5-4 faction that fights over power and patronage in the third poorest city in the nation. Warring factions are dysfunctional, divisive and they fosters rivalry instead of cooperation.

Strategy du jour. When dysfunctional elected officials consistently overreact to a single data point and take the entire organization in a new direction. Often the result of hallway or ad-hoc meetings in obscure places and making decisions in the absence of those who are actually responsible for that sort of thing.

Analysis paralysis. When elected officials, especially from warring factions, chronically debate issues to death, going down one rat hole or knock-down, drag-out fight after another without actually making decisions because there’s no clear leadership to drive consensus.

Walk on water behavior. When leaders either consciously or subconsciously hoist certain groups up on pedestals while denigrating others. Besides being divisive, that also creates “walk on water” behavior where exalted groups aren’t subject to standard processes like budgeting, for example.

Silo mentality. When teams, departments or entire divisions act as if they’re independent from the rest , usually in a defensive “it’s us against them” sort of way when fighting for resources. Often the result of being denigrated by dysfunctional and divisive elected officials. A.k.a. “bunker mentality.”

Sacred cow. A pet project — usually supported by an elected official — that’s immune to criticism and the government’s standard processes. In other words, it continues to be funded long after it shouldn’t.

What do you think about these seven signs of dysfunction? Are there others that you would add to this list?