Posted tagged ‘decision making’

Being Critical

June 11, 2012

Critical thinking – even the kids are at it…

Sometimes, a throwaway comment made by someone else can have real resonance. And so it was a few weeks ago when someone at a conference I attended mentioned (I think it might have been Carrie Bishop but if not sorry to whoever did say it)  that being a policy officer in local government rewarded negativity. Officers were given extra points if they could dissect a piece of policy or another proposal, in as elegant a manner as possible.

The reason that wrung true is that it’s not just policy officers; being critical, and having a critical mind, is one of the most sought after traits in local government.

Think back to the last time you sat in on a strategy meeting or something similar. Doubtless there was an officer there who had brought forward a researched and thought through paper that was then dissected by the attending managers. Even those that are supportive will only use their support as a preamble to then depart some piece of critical wisdom.

This is not necessarily a surprise. Having critical thought is one of the traits most praised in degree students and in society in general. Being critical assumes that you are able to analyse situations and not just take them at face value. The high value given to it in local authorities presumes that the act of creating good policy and particularly making good decisions requires the deconstruction of other work and thorough questioning before the right outcome can emerge.


Are the officers to blame?

September 15, 2011

Talk to the hand!

I was recently reminded of a very bad decision I had been involved in.

Quite a few years ago I worked on one of the trendy community empowerment projects that were so prominent in the mid-New Labour period. This particular one gave chunks of money to community groups for them to spend on basically whatever they wanted. I know that these schemes existed throughout the country and the quality of the spending varied from commissioning murals right through to investing in long term community resources.

The scheme I worked on was relatively small and despite being in a small area didn’t really generate the sort of interest we would have hoped for. About 15 people came forward and wanted to get involved in the decision making.

Being a local authority, and thus not wanting to give up total control, we had set some rules for the spending in the local area. These, simply put, dictated that the money needed to be spent on ‘things’ and/or improvements to other ‘things’. We also did some initial consultation work, in conjunction with some local councillors, that identified some of the key concerns of the local residents.

Unfortunately, despite all the hard work we made to make the decision as ‘reflective’ of the community’s views as possible the small group of 15 local people had other ideas.