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3:42 PM
Comments on Manningham's large Operating Budget ($100m) - 2013/2014.

There is a lot of evidence to indicate that the Manningham Council's operating budget is massively inflated due to widespread, poor management.


Managers who can only manage the status quo.

On page ix, $25,000 is budgeted "to review how Aged Care services are delivered to ensure the service is meeting the needs of clients."

When I worked as a manager in the private sector, I had a department to run and costs to control. Senior management placed great importance on reducing costs, improving quality of service, working smarter, more efficiently and eliminating all forms of waste.

As a manager, I was expected to know and understand: the processes I managed; to listen to staff and clients and be able to identify and resolve problems and bottlenecks; improve efficiency and quality of service. A manager who could not do this or who made excuses as to why he or she could not, would be looked upon with suspicion.

Those in the manufacturing sector know that there is enormous pressure to reduce costs and improve quality to remain competitive.

But such expectations and abilities appear not to be a part of Manningham Council's culture. It would seem that only maintaining the status quo along with annual incremental cost increases, is the activity that is rewarded.

At Manningham council, money needs to be spent - $25,000 to be exact - for council managers to understand the processes they are supposed to be managing and see shortcomings in the processes.


Council talks 'continuous improvement' but has no idea what it's talking about.

On page ix, $12,600 is budgeted to "develop a Continuous Improvement framework to improve efficiencies and to make Council processes and systems more responsive to customer needs."

It is true that to implement a CIP program, training is required to understand how CIP works and is done and this will cost money. However there is much more to a continuous improvement program.

A properly managed continuous improvement program should reduce the cost of your products and services. 

This is so well understood among manufacturers today that when a supplier to Ford Australia introduced Quality and CIP programs, Ford expected and sometimes took around a 4% reduction in the cost price of the purchased components because CIP programs reduced costs at least by this amount.

The idea that quality improvement programs reduce cost is unfamiliar to us in the West but is very familiar to Japanese manufacturers. Those working in manufacturing in Australia have been struggling over the last few decades to copy and match the quality and CIP programs first implemented in Japan. And we have done this to varying degrees of success.

For those not familiar with quality and continuous improvement programs, they were introduced to Japan by an American named Edward Deming who had the very strange idea that by improving quality, the cost of products and services would actually decrease.

We in the west were of the opinion that to improve quality, costs must simply increase. The better quality product, to us, ALWAYS costs more to make. We in the west did not listen to Deming. He went to Japan - and they listened.

Then, over the following decades, the Japanese proceeded to outperform, under-price and subsequently decimate the electronics, automotive and manufacturing industries in the West.

If Manningham council were to introduce a quality or CIP program properly, the cost to us for the services they provide should decrease, by at least 4% if not much more.

But I think it fair to say that our council knows and understands little or nothing of this. They still think like we did in the 1950's where better services ALWAYS costs more money - very much more money.



Let me give you some examples of Manningham's half-hearted, disinterested, unengaged, wasteful and lethargic management practices.


A loafer cannot get all his work done so it appears we need another loafer.

Also on page ix, $93,000 is budgeted for an additional mowing crew to ensure all parks, reserves and nature strips are well maintained.

This is a great example of extremely poor people management by our Council.

The Council employee I refer to is Mr Sleepy. He comes in a truck with a ride on mower to cut the grass. He used to fall asleep in his truck for sometimes up to an hour at each park he went to. I know this because I used to see him asleep in his truck while parked near our house.

I also exchanged notes with a neighbour down the road. When he finally moved to the next park, he would do the same thing there! My neighbour would see him sleep for another 45 minutes near her house.

I got sick of this and phoned the council one day and told them what he was doing. You will not believe how the council responded! The council said to me: 'Can I take your number please and get back to you with and explanation of why he is doing this'. I am not kidding you! This is exactly what they said! Our council lives in their own little world (and think us stupid).

I told them I did not need an explanation. It is quite clear what is happening and equally clear that this man is not being managed properly.

Manningham management must have spoken to him after I phoned because he then changed tactics.

Instead of sleeping in his truck, what he now does is drive around and around when he has nothing to do. I now see him driving around when the grass in our park (and other parks) is too short to cut. He simply will not go back to base and say there is nothing for him to do and be given other work. So he puts on this pantomime and wastes fuel and pretends he is busy.

Even as I write this, this loafer is still driving about aimlessly. I work from home and travel each day, so I get to see what this clown is doing. He does this even in the middle of winter (when, as we all know, the grass grows most vigorously!)

For Manningham Council management not to see this and then to say they need an additional mowing crew shows just how pathetic these peoples management skills are. The employees have it all over the Council managers.

There is little wonder they cannot see problems in processes or with people, or bring about change and improvements – the basic things a good manager should be able to do.

I mentioned Edward Deming above. Let me give you one of his quotes "The problem is at the top; management is the problem." (Deming, W. Edwards. 1993. The New Economics for Industry, Government, Education, second edition.) Manningham Council managers should learn what this means.

By the way, let's watch what Mr Sleepy does next. Now he knows that we are onto him, he will probably change tactics once again.


Never interrupt receptionists at Manningham council when they are having a private conversation.

The receptionists at the Council Offices are another example. They will serve you however I have never got a smile from any of them. But if they are having a private conversation when I walk up, I am treated as an intruder and have had to wait until they finish before they will to talk to me.

Another example is the Engineering Offices at the end of Blackburn Road. I had to go down there a while back and was left waiting at a small counter. From the counter I was able to look into the work room. What impressed me the most was the speed the people walked at. I had never seen people move so slowly. Just ... filling ... in ... time.... I had never seen people take so long to make themselves a coffee.


Manningham management have dug themselves into a deep hole.

On page 25 of the budget we see "Award increases per Enterprise Agreement 1,758,000 (4.2%)".

This is a 1.7 million dollar increase in staff salaries, but for doing what? For just maintaining the status quo? Enterprise agreements can be a valuable tool for management to promote a responsive and flexible workplace, and help improve productivity and efficiency. I wonder how their enterprise agreement was negotiated and how it is worded.

If you work in the private sector today, are you guaranteed a 4.2% annual pay rise regardless of performance? I doubt it.



From the few examples shown above, there is very good evidence that extremely poor staff management plagues our Council. And this poor management dramatically increases the costs of running our council.

The council's poor management and oversight practices are so bad that contracting work out to private contractors/companies would probably not reduce costs either. Poor council management would also rob them of their efficiency and introduce massive waste into these private organisations, just as it has with the council's own staff.

The only answer with such loafers is to link cost reduction and productivity gains to salaries, and if that fails to put their jobs on the line. This is what happens in the private sector and would come like a cleansing breeze to the public service.


20 May 2013.

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