An opportunity to hit pause before pressing fast forward

I’ve made mention in the past of the pace of life in a city council, particularly one serving somewhere as dynamic as Aberdeen during a period of really significant transformation. I think we’ll only really appreciate the scale of that change when we look back in years to come at what has been achieved in a short period of time.

There are lots of cogs in our machine and we should all take pride in the way we work together to keep those spinning hour to hour and day to day.

What that machine doesn’t have is a pause button, so taking the time to take a step back and reflect can be difficult.

With that in mind, building review into the day to day business of the council is important and there’s been an important step forward in recent weeks that will have passed under the radar for many colleagues – but it’s important to highlight.

Last month the first in a series of reports on the effectiveness of all of the Council’s committees was published and considered by the Education Operational Delivery Committee.

This is exemplar practice in local government.  It’s an illustration of taking pride in what we do and working together to make things even better – our guiding principles in action!

Given the rhythm of the committee cycle, it would be easy to flow from one meeting to the next and from one year to another. By setting annual reviews on the effectiveness of each committee, we’re embracing our organisational capability of openness, transparency and accountability.

The Education Operational Delivery Committee review highlighted the training and development undertaken by members in the past year, expanding knowledge in areas including early learning as well as on specific projects such as Big Noise Torry, as well as noting the fact the vast majority of committee business was conducted in public session. That bodes well for the future of the committee, but the annual assessment of effectiveness will guard against complacency.

The review of the Operational Delivery Committee pointed to the success over the past year of holding the organisation to account in terms of performance as well as the clear links between the business considered by members and the Local Outcome Improvement Plan’s themes – with a particular emphasis on outcomes relating to place and people. Again, it’s very encouraging to be able to take that objective view on the impact committee reports and decisions are having in our communities.

Those are just a handful of highlights from the effectiveness reports, but give a flavour of the way we’re reviewing the way we work and in turn aiming to make continual improvement.

It’s part of the wider programme to improve our governance, which has delivered on a number of levels in the past 18-months. Notably the Council’s first ever Scheme of Governance has been introduced – with all of our key constitutional documents revised, consolidated and aligned to ensure an outcome focused approach to how we do business. Risk management has been enhanced, a new performance management framework created and the Council Delivery Plan created … the list goes on.

Good governance isn’t an easy topic to bring to life in a few hundred words, given the complexity that goes hand in hand with it, but it does run through everything we do as a Council and give us the platform to make a difference to the people, place and economy.

My thanks go to all involved in the initiatives I’ve touched upon as we strive to embed the governance that is helping to drive positive change in Aberdeen.