Friday, 2 May 2014

GIVING ADVICE TO A NEW GOVERNMENT

The Country Liberal Party was elected to government after eleven years on the opposition benches on August 25 2012.

I was moved a few months later to write and curculate the following paper.
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GIVING ADVICE TO GOVERNMENT

After a number of years in opposition, it is logical that the CLP coming back into Government would set up a process to receive advice from an array of people. 

My purpose in writing is not to criticise processes presently in place, but to offer some thoughts that may help with contextualisation.

I came to the Northern Territory in 1975 and was active in school based education until retiring from my position in January 2012. During my time as an educator, it became apparent that we tend in overall organisational terms, not to consider sufficiently what has gone before when planning future directions. We tend to operate circularly, reinventing the wheel.

The best educational example that comes to mind is the number of times we have shifted position on the matter of centralisation and decentralisation: We have re-visited regionalisation as a model on three occasions. 

The model proved largely to be unworkable on the first two occasions for a number of key reasons. While communications issues have been overcome through technological advance, the other key reasons for minimal success continue. 

1. People are reluctant to shift and live in remoter regions, exacerbated at times by the fact that housing for officers is not available. Issues of personal and family need also come into play.

2. The costs of visitation into the regions or from regional centres to outlying areas is prohibitive and travelling budgets tend to be prematurely exhausted. This limits the effectiveness of support needed by people at the coalface. (While technology enhances communication, fasce-to-face support, coaching, mentoring and context is important, particularly for those who are neophytes).

There are countless other examples of what I am writing about, not only with education but all key areas of Government service delivery.

Considering the Past

In order to inform the future through awareness of and examination of the past, I wanted to suggest that consideration be given to establishing a network that captures those who have 'been there and done that' in historical terms. Consultation involving those with prior knowledge and experience would in my opinion be most worthwhile.

When Gary Barnes was appointed as CEO for the (then) Department of Employment,Education  and Training  (DEET) he told Principals and others at a forum held at Nightcliff High School, that the lack of historical appreciation was a definite drawback for himself and people in like positions. There was no historical data base to which reference could be made and no information from which inference and awareness could be drawn.

While consultation and conversation with those who have gone before is possible, it is often a case of not knowing who they are, where they were and where they are presently located.

My suggestion would be to identify a group of people who could be asked to offer feedback on policy and initiatives being considered. They could provide information on the possible history and previous implementation of those initiatives. The creation of a data base identifying these people, the background to their organisational engagement and their areas of expertise might be a management strategy. Methodology by which input could include email, phone or face-to-face conversation.

In many instances 'new' policies are not new but a reinvention, re-work or revisitation of past agendas.

Many people in major decision making and policy setting roles are relatively new to the Northern Territory. This development could be particularly useful for them.

My suggestion would be that those involved should be drawn from those who worked at the coalface, because there is 'distance' between them and those in superordinate support management positions.

I wanted to raise these  matters for your consideration.

Written  February 12 2013


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