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Posts Tagged ‘Rosabeth Moss Kanter’

Following on from the London Collaborative seminar I attended where Rosabeth Moss Kanter spoke about the importance of articulating values and principles to organisational success, a colleague has  alerted me to Jerry Porras and Jim Collins’ book, Built to Last.  Published in 1994, it details research they carried out into the development of some of America’s most successful corporations, and like Prof Kanter, they emphasis the importance of building an organisation’s ‘core value system’.    They state that while over time competencies, strategies and goals change, the core ideology must remain intact.

Porras and Collins argue that where organisations take positions such as ‘you can invest for the future or do well in the short term’ or ‘you can have low cost or high quality’, this limits them to a short-minded frame of reference where there is only one choice.  They suggest that exceptional organisations find ways to do well in the short term and long term, rather than sacrifice one for the other.  They don’t look for a balance, rather they try to acquire both to the max.

This is an interesting proposition in the context of local government where we often seem to be trying to make tough choices and where diminishing resources can often be seen as making service reductions inevitable.  Moreover, the Audit Commission’s corporate assessment model places weight on the ability of councils to focus and prioritise.

The Audit Commission emphasise the importance of ambition and Porras and Collins also maintain that setting super goals is a hallmark for success. This is something that we have done, for example, in setting a 2020 objective of being the London borough where residents rate their quality of life higher than anywhere else in the capital.  Setting audacious goals, Porras and Collins argue enhances team spirit and builds confidence.

Another finding from the research was that experimentation, trial and error, accidents and opportunism appear to be more important than detailed strategic planning in making organisations exceptional.  Giving ideas a quick try and accepting mistakes are two of the ways in which progress can be made.   It’s a reminder that our corporate planning frameworks are there to help facilitate delivery and not to be a strait-jacket.

So what makes an exceptional council?  We are all familiar with the Audit Commission’s CPA model and the Government’s idea of councils as community leaders that at the same time act as delivery agents for national priorities, but perhaps we need to do more within local government to articulate what we believe an exceptional council looks and feels like.  And we shouldn’t also forget the verdict of our residents which all councils will be getting through the new place survey; the results of which are expected in February next year.

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