THE BIG PICTURE (THE DELIVERY PROGRAM)

Local government organisations are complex.  Councillors and staff - let alone the general community - often struggle to see the big picture: what does council do? what does it cost? what state are our assets and infrastructure in, and how much are we investing in the next few years to address the key problems? what are our objectives, and what outcomes are we actually achieving? where are the key concerns?

 

A council's DELIVERY PROGRAM should answer these questions... but more often than not, the big picture is not at all clear because of:

  • a lack of integration (the worst - and most common - example being that activities are in one document and budgets are in another, but the disconnect between asset management and other council activities is just as problematic) 

  • the use of 'themes' (social, cultural, economic, environment, civic) to describe the organisation instead of its key functional areas

  • excessive detail (often running into hundreds of pages) which means people can't see the forest for the trees.

A council's Delivery Program should tell a story - with services as the 'common thread' - about 'where we are, where we want to be and how we're going to get there'.  Over the last 5 years, we have worked with over a dozen councils refining a framework to tell this story.  These councils are serving communities of under 5,000 and over 70,000, those with declining populations and those with rapid growth, those with relatively simple asset bases and those with complex multi-billion dollar portfolios.  The differences in challenges and opportunities for their local communities, and the way the council understands and performs its role is fascinating: each has their own story to tell. 

Our SERVICE DASHBOARDS are a new format for the Delivery Program that presents the big picture clearly, integrating information from all the Integrated Planning and Reporting documents to describe each key functional area on 2 pages. 

  • Page 1 is a narrative about where we are and where we want to be. Traffic lights highlight concerns (now and in future with resources in the LTFP). Charts summarise feedback from community surveys and communicate the proportion of total resources invested in the service. 

  • Page 2 is more 'hard data' about how we're going to get there in terms of asset, financial and output-based performance measures. Links to further detail are also provided for those who want to know more.

The DASHBOARD SUMMARY then takes the information in the Dashboards up to the next level, simply highlighting concerns now and in future across the key functional areas and indicating where council is investing the majority of its resources.  

 

Surprisingly, we have found that councillors are often drawn to this one-page summary as a concise overview of the big picture.  It often sparks a strategic discussion about key issues council needs to focus on, as well as resource constraints to work within and/or overcome.   

Service Dashboards

It should come as no surprise that the end result, the 'Big Picture', is quite complex.  The reality is that traditionally, the information shown here on 15 pages (most councils have 7 or 8 two-page Service Dashboards, plus a one-page Dashboard Summary) is spread over hundreds of pages of action plans, budgets and other documentation. 

 

The interpretation guide in the attached pdf further explains the elements of the Dashboards, but the key point is that all of these elements are essential if council is to clarify the big picture and so make informed decisions about its priorities.