Thursday, 5 January 2017

It's the process, not the people

We are due to go to the polls on May 4th 2017 to elect a new council. Many people will not vote because they believe that nothing can be changed; whatever happens they are ignored. There is good evidence that this is true. The council system has been “rigged”.

At it's simplest, the council consists of a group of professionals that deliver services and a group of councillors that advise and oversee these professionals, rather like non-executive directors. There are also other public bodies that oversee council business but not many of them have powers and those that do have very narrow and focussed power (e.g. Audit Scotland).

“Non-executive directors are expected to monitor and challenge the performance of the executive directors and the management, and to take a determined stand in the interests of the firm and its stakeholders.” (

Do you know of any councillors that routinely act like the quote above, about non-exec. directors ?

Why is that?

Firstly, they only have a very short amount of time to help make decisions on very complex matters. They have no time to seek independent advice so that they can actually govern the council.

Secondly, they are more often than not embedded in a party system that requires them to “follow the party line”.

Thirdly, they have around 16,000 people that they represent. How is that supposed to work?

So the process that a councillor works within is fatally flawed. One of my passions though is process design. You may have noticed I have written a plethora of articles about digital transformation and indeed have spoken with the council about changing what they do many times.

However there is more bad news.

The council is a huge organisation with silos and many embedded and difficult working practices, that in my opinion, will take a lot of changing. Layered on top of that is a party political system that swings from one party to the next and back again. Each successive new administration rips out the good work of the last one and pillories them for their failures whilst, at the same time, ignoring the wishes of the electorate.

More bad news I am afraid. We cannot change the way the council works, only they can.

However what we can change are the councillors, on May the 4th 2017.

We can stop the constant bickering.

We can stop the silly, childish hectoring.

We can put in place truly independent councillors that care about the city of Aberdeen and their electorate above everything else.

We can give these independent councilors access to the best technology so they can be a truly disruptive force. rather like Amazon has been to the online shopping market or Airbnb to the hotel market place.

We can give these councillors a large community of experts within Aberdeen so that, when they need advice, they can get independent advice.

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