In our work of reorganizing municipal administrations, we always make an analysis / snapshot of the current situation. We find that some work is duplicated, that there are delays in the flow of information, that employees often do not know at what stage the projects are and that employees and management do not understand each other or they speak a “different language”.
The most common findings that lead to “chaos” or the situation in the municipal administration is unclear strategy and direction of the municipality, if the definition of who is the “first” superior to employees (mayor, director, head of office) is unclear, poor communication, consequently unclear distributed work (too general systematization), unevenly distributed responsibility, different conception of projects… As a solution to the situations that arose, we saw a different way of working and organization of the municipal administration. Thus, in ten years of work, we have developed a system of organization of the municipality in the form of a Project Office, and the mode of operation according to the Dynamic Communication Model.
When we find problems in the organization of the municipal administration, it is difficult to point to the culprit or to the true cause of the error. Most of us are of the opinion that the problems in the organization stem mainly from management, which is a special feature in municipal administrations, as in principle the management is changed every four years, which means that there is not enough time to implement major visible changes. Each mayor also has his own views on the management of the municipality, his own expectations and his own way of working. The team in the municipality in most cases remains unchanged, but in practice it means that every four years they have to adapt and change the way they work… The biggest problem faced by employees in the municipal administration is the unclear definition of superiority. Many times the mayor directly delegates tasks to each employee, and then he receives instructions from the director and / or directly from the chief or head of offices. Work practice suggests that most employees so often receive different information from different sources (superiors) for the same task, which in turn leads to confusion. This is often the main reason for congestion in the municipality, given the fact that municipalities do not have a clearly defined development plan, as a basis for the implementation of project and work activities.
The role of the mayor in the project office
The most important thing is that everyone in the municipal administration performs their tasks and adheres to their responsibilities and competencies. If we explain… the mayor should never be directly involved in the work of the municipal administration, but should contact through the director of the municipal administration. The role of the mayor is more presentable than operational, he is the link between the “people” and the municipal administration, when he tries to realize the wishes of the people through mayoralty within the set goals.
This means that the municipal administration is run exclusively by the director, who has a duty to be in constant contact and coordination with the mayor. In practice, municipalities are also often the founders of various public institutes and agencies. All these institutions are budget users and were established for public good purposes. This means that the municipality must actively cooperate with them, control the use of funds and together with them follow the vision of the municipality. Public institutes and agencies should be understood as an extension of the municipality for the realization of the set vision, where the mayor plays an important role as a coordinator. We have already mentioned that the mayor should not interfere in the operational work of the municipal administration, but should only communicate regularly with the director of the municipal administration. The mayor should also regularly communicate with all directors of public institutes and agencies whose founder or co-founder is the municipality. It is important that all these institutions interact in a unified way in order to achieve the same goals. Even in this case, the mayor must not interfere in the operational work of these institutions. Following the example of the function entrusted to him, it represents only a close link between the institution itself and the municipality, especially from the point of view of the strategic development of the municipality and following the set vision. Unfortunately, we perceive that the practice of Slovenian mayors is often the opposite. Mayors are too involved in the operation itself and therefore often overburdened. The ordinances on the establishment of municipalities clearly define the responsibilities and competencies of the mayor, but in practice this is not the case in most cases.
If we looked today at how many Slovenian municipalities have a clearly set vision and development strategy, we would be surprised by the modest number. You could say that mayors are not aware enough of their mission. If we allow ourselves to express it symbolically, the mayor is the “voice of the people”. Mayorship should not be an individual experience of achieving political goals, but goals laid by citizens. Certainly politics plays its role here, but when the mayor takes office, he must not represent only his political interests, but the interests of the entire municipality.
However, a strategy set and written down somewhere is not enough to achieve strategic goals. The role of the mayor should be, together with the representatives of the citizens, to regularly monitor whether the set strategy satisfactorily follows the vision and enables the achievement of the set goals. Here, however, we encounter responsibility itself. The mayor is responsible for successfully achieving strategic goals, but practice shows that strategic goals are often set too abstractly and unattainably. In our opinion, part of the responsibility should be prepared to take on those who participated in setting these goals, we are talking about councilors who have a very important role in the development of the municipality. It is the councilors who are the voice of the people who are entrusted to represent the interests of the citizens. It turns out, however, that this role is often intertwined with political machinations. In favor of real efficiency, those who participated in their setting – councilors – should also take part of the responsibility for unrealistically set goals.
Picture 1 clearly indicates that the mayor must act more externally, i.e. be in constant contact and available to the citizens, and at the same time take care of inter-municipal and international integration.
The mayor is obliged to take on the role of coordinator of all key institutions that pursue the same goal set by the citizens. It is also the mayor who should give clear instructions to the directors, who should take care of the efficiency of their employees. Slovenian practice shows that with the new mayor, a new reorganization of the municipality often follows. Due to some new interests, this is understandable, but the reorganization should not be dealt operationally by the mayor, but by the director. The mayor must give the director of the municipal administration only clear guidelines for the development of the municipality, and the director must judge whether he can pursue new goals with the current organizational structure and staff, or whether certain changes will be needed in the municipal administration. It follows that the reorganization of the municipal administration and other support institutions should be carried out only when the development guidelines are clearly defined, ie when the goals that follow the vision are known and when the strategy of the municipality is clearly defined.
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The importance of the vision and development plan as a basis for project activities in the municipality
We all like to remember the election promises that the future first people of the municipality promise us in favor of their victory. Which of the candidates will offer a program that will be written on the skin of our voters? Sports enthusiastically, citizens applaud the new sports hall, culturists take the side of the candidate who offers a cultural home, businessmen demand an industrial zone, and so on. No, this is not a description of pre-election health issues that would betray the municipality in which I live, in fact it is a description of events that can be identified, I am sure, with each of the Slovenian municipalities in our country. And when, after certain terms of office, we look back, which is supposed to be our duty and responsibility to the voters, we find that the long-awaited pre-election promises have been shattered or that they have been partially fulfilled, but still do not meet our expectations. likeable image of our municipality. So we ask ourselves, why is that? Let us recall ko .when, on the basis of the adopted legislation, municipalities in Slovenia began to be established like mushrooms after the rain, their intention was to free themselves as newly formed municipalities from the shackles of connections of the then joint municipal administrations and get the opportunity to develop in the direction of local circumstances. most expedient and priority. But alas, we note, for the most part it was left only on an untapped opportunity. When we talk about the development of the municipality, following the example of Slovenian envy, we began to compare ourselves with neighboring, usually incomparable municipalities, while forgetting to take advantage of local development opportunities, which should be used as an advantage. We think wrongly if we think it is important in the foreground to have a football stadium in every municipality, without it being worthwhile to focus on the individuality that each municipality has.
In the municipality, projects cannot take place uncontrolled, as we like to say overnight, but they must be set in the long run. The most important is the development program for the next ten years, which roughly defines what the municipality will do in the next ten years and how it will use its advantages and potential at the highest level. Even earlier, however, the municipality needs a vision, according to our estimates for the next fifty years. The vision is formed on the basis of natural features and history, in that area. The municipality must have a clear direction on whether to focus on tourism, sports, production, industry… in such a small area we cannot have everything at once, but we must give priority to only one, and other activities are partially adapted. “What will be the bridge over the river where there is no water?”
Only when we have a vision, we can create a Development Plan, which defines the content and timing of projects that will lead to the desired state. It is expedient for the Development Plan to be prepared primarily by citizens, under professional guidance.
The municipality must undertake the development plan comprehensively and invite representatives of various interest groups, the economy… in short, in connection with several different local individuals, who are divided into interest groups. Of course, everyone must be citizens of that municipality. The entire design of the development plan should be led by qualified experts in the field of strategy, project management and communication, who are desirable to be from another place, perhaps even from another region, as they are unencumbered by local problems and much easier to guide groups moving away. from the purpose of socializing or get complicated. As mentioned, the groups should be composed of interests; namely in the field of sports, culture, education, economy… each group formulates its own ideas and proposals, which are then formed in consensus into a comprehensive document. The communication system follows a pyramid system, where suggestions are formed below and then formed vertically into a final opinion. This is not a program of political parties or members of a certain current, but a program of the entire municipality. Only in this way does the program gain credibility, stability and independence. In fact, it should be called “some” world that would take care of tracking and developing this program. Only a development plan can contribute to the long-term rational development of the municipality and thus also to a stable environment, which will be taken into account by the leaders of the municipality in their implementation, neglecting their own interests when changing the term of office. The development plan must be based on the interest of local development and aimed at a meaningful and long-term integrated image of the municipality. The program of candidates in local elections should contain only concrete guidelines with set time and financial plans for the implementation of the adopted development plan, and show their excellence in the implementation of individual items of the plan. After all, only municipalities that have pre-made detailed project drafts and clear projections of local development will be successful in public tenders for drawing state and European funds. It is in this direction that we should think when we talk about the effective development of the municipality in general.
Preparation of the budget on the basis of the development plan
As already mentioned, the basic guidelines should be followed by the mayors in their election promises, because otherwise the program has no value and the municipality consequently begins to deviate from its essence, and above all, development stops. On the basis of the election program or realization of the development plan had to work mainly on concrete solutions and optimization or. innovation of modern times. The electoral program must be a very concrete upgrade of the Development Plan and the basis for the preparation of the budget for an individual year, the responsibility for the preparation of which lies exclusively with the professional services of the municipal administration. The budget as such, in terms of its content and timing, in a way represents a project year, and as such it should be considered, and a map drawn up to realize the realization. Each budget item independently or as a set of several budget items represents an ongoing project and a series of processes, which in the course of implementation take place in different terms, content and finances to the set goal (if we take into account that all projects aim to implement the Development Plan) . That is why a common understanding of the term “project” seems important. The project, from which the project management skills derive in the implementation phase, has four basic stages: definition of goals, planning, production – monitoring and completion of the project.
Based on the knowledge of the situation in the municipalities, we find that they know how to establish a budget quite well, but later lose control over monitoring the implementation and intermediate status of individual projects. A timetable needs to be drawn up for how the budget will be spent.
Tracking the realization of set projects on the basis of budget items
A clear visual picture of the real situation is expressed at some point by a gantt chart.
We add the duration and execution time from which we make a gantt chart (see Figure 3).
The data collected and uniformly created offer a comprehensive overview of the use of funds in the local community, also in connecting municipalities in joint projects when it comes to drawing state funds or European Union funds. Such monitoring of the use of budget control follows the thesis of the expected value of project implementation and provides security and assurance that the municipality independently or in conjunction with another municipality, with timely activities satisfies the planned content, timing and financial plan of projects and achieves full traceability of earmarked spending.
Given the interdependence with human factors, the overview of the availability of employees, responsible persons and contractors within the municipal administration and their share of occupancy on a particular project should not be neglected, which is the basis for planning employee involvement in other work responsibilities in the municipality. With this type of review, we achieve a more rational distribution of the employee’s work tasks and ensure an even workload of employees and relieve overburdened individuals, as we also compose a matrix of competencies and responsibilities for implementation. This information will tell us a realistic picture of project implementation.
Above all, it is important that we have enough time to prepare for projects. Good project preparation does not only mean setting a schedule or another plan, but a whole set of processes that, in interdependence, significantly affect the subsequent efficiency and effectiveness of project implementation and the achievement of the basic objectives of the project. The data indicate that only about 30% of all projects are actually completed on time, within the estimated costs, with the expected results and the final impact. 20% of projects do not end, while as many as 50% are final, but with changed final goals and expectations. The results of the analysis of projects in Slovenian municipalities reveal that the reasons for this are that projects are rushed, whether an insufficient number of employees are involved in their implementation, or that decisions are made too late, tenders appear at the last minute…. The relatively high level of project implementation failure is largely influenced by the inadequacy of project preparation, and vice versa, when we talk about successfully implemented projects, ie those that were well prepared. In short, if we want the project to return the invested investment in the long run, without itself becoming the subject of a new investment (debugging), it is necessary to prepare well for it and later complete it correctly. The consequences of premature moves on projects are manifested in not achieving the desired results and exceeding the planned value of projects.
With the image of the Gantt chart that we create, we actually see which projects are realistic or we can organize them so that they are realistically derived, not just to meet our impatience. With a visual display, we will get to the optimization, time and financial costs faster. At the same time, we will divide the work among the employees so that they will use 50% of the time for process work (as required by law) and 50% of the time for projects and development, which are projections for an efficient municipal administration.
Organizing the entire municipal administration with the elements of a project office
The Municipal Administration performs operational tasks in accordance with the set plan of the municipality and mandatory tasks defined by law. The work of the municipal administration is organized and supervised by the director of the municipal administration. Therefore, all tasks to employees must come from the top, which is represented in the municipal administration by the director. The mayor should not get involved in solving operational problems and problems. Employees are also not allowed to turn to the mayor in their work. First and foremost, they must first turn to their first superior, who can escalate higher, which means that this can be the later superior of our first superior, as long as we don’t get to the director. For the director, however, this path of resolving operational matters is coming to an end. In our experience, however, it often happens that employees turn directly to the mayor. Of course, we cannot say that this is merely a habit of the employees, as the mayors themselves often delegate tasks past the director. And when the delegation of tasks from several directions begins, then we can talk about “organized chaos”. And in this “chaos,” information begins to be lost and responsibilities transferred to co-workers. To make the confusion even greater, according to most of the employees in the municipal administration, it seems that such a way of communication and operation of the municipal administration is completely normal, if not necessary for the performance of public good tasks.
So, if we want the municipal administration to work efficiently, then we must first clarify the very concept of efficiency. The municipal administration should not differ in its way of operating from a company that is on the market. On the contrary, it should take even more account of the laws of the market. Some would say the municipality has nothing to do with the market. However, we are often mistaken here. The municipality markets itself, and the potential buyers are the citizens that the municipality wants to bring to its environment, as well as the citizens that it wants to keep in its municipality. We could say that the municipality has its market share as large as the population of the municipality. Each individual municipality has the opportunity to increase its market share only if it knows how to behave market-wise and attract as many potential new citizens as possible to its environment. The higher the “market share” of the municipality, the higher the funds from the budget. However, it should also be taken into account that municipalities are under the scrutiny of various inspectorates as well as the public themselves due to the disposal of public funds, and this should be an additional reason for market behavior.
Effective and rational operation can be achieved when each employee is aware of their responsibilities and works as a team. In practice, we found that the project approach is also of key importance in municipal administrations. This means that employees need to learn to think project-wise. Every task they carry out must be taken as a project, be it a more or less large-scale project. Each staff member’s task provides for its purpose, its purpose, its content, the deadline and the specific staff to perform it. It is necessary to establish control over individual projects – tasks and to establish an efficient flow of information, as communication plays a key role in every organization.
In the company Sirius.si d.o.o. we have developed a dynamic model of communication in the municipal administration, with the aim of accelerating the flow of information and establishing control over all events. When we talk about supervision, this does not mean that the director must establish control over the operation of the entire municipal administration, but that each employee must establish control over his work and over the information at his disposal. Most tasks in the municipal administration are interdependent among employees. Each individual should clearly define in what form and to what extent his predecessor must provide him with certain information in order to be able to carry out his task effectively in a process. At the same time, he must carry out his activity by passing it on in accordance with the expectations of the staff member involved in the process behind him.
This way of working requires an ongoing exchange of information. However, it is true that employees should first be taught the basics of the project approach, as we find that usually each employee understands the meaning of the project in their own way.
Practice has shown that most employees in the municipal administration understand the “project” only as tenders from EU funds. And, if everyone understands the meaning of the project differently, then it means that there are problems in communication, so it is necessary to unify communication first and establish the “same” language of communication with employees.
The same approach should be used for more demanding investment projects, except that there is a greater scope of tasks and thus greater responsibility of all involved. In these projects, we suggest that part of the responsibility be assumed by those who participated in the creation of the idea itself, or are “guilty” of the creation of the project. These are the saints. Namely, all major and demanding projects are carried out in accordance with the “wishes” of the councilors. And if someone was involved in the creation of the project idea itself, then they should also be involved in the further process of planning, preparation and implementation as a project manager. It means that the Councilors lead their areas and are project managers, while the professional associates are operatives. With such an approach, the municipality would be easier to achieve the set goals, and part of the responsibility would be transferred to the “creators” of the development of the municipality. With such a way of working, the municipality would operate in the form of a project office, supported by a dynamic model of communication. The dynamic model of communication, however, does not only mean the exchange of information between employees, but primarily teaches each individual individually. First of all, we have to learn to communicate with ourselves and organize a project on a weekday, only then can we start to encourage the flow of information between employees and establish a project approach at the level of the entire municipal administration. However, we can organize a working day as a project only when we have mastered the basics of planning activities.
As part of the project approach, each individual must plan their daily, weekly and monthly activities. In daily planning, we define the activities we need to perform for the next day. This is best done at the end of the workday. The next working day, in the morning, we first review the list of tasks that we tackle by priority. Of course, such a list is not constant and will be updated throughout the day. The purpose of daily planning is not to forget about tasks and to stick to deadlines. We repeat the same process of daily planning every working day. Once employees master daily planning, then they embark on weekly planning. This, in turn, requires greater concentration and detailed knowledge of the “rhythm” of the workplace. However, if the employee has previously done daily planning, then he will not have any problems on a weekly basis. Based on the daily plans, at the end of the week we set a weekly plan for the week that follows. The weekly plan includes key tasks that can be planned in advance according to the content of the job. At the beginning of the week, the employee checks their weekly activities, coordinates them and possibly complements them. At the end of the week, he has to check whether he has carried out all the planned activities, or to reschedule them to the next week. When an employee wins weekly planning, he embarks on a monthly one. He refocuses on weekly plans, extracts recurring tasks, and sets a monthly plan at the beginning of the month, in which he introduces activities that are time-bound to the planning month. At the end of the month, a review of monthly activities follows. In this way, the employee checks himself and at the same time takes responsibility for his work.
If we organize the municipal administration as a project office, we can structurally imagine that the director of the municipal administration is in the role of Head of the project office, and below him are the project managers. Project managers draw on human resources and various organizational units (departments / services) to carry out and manage projects. When it comes to development projects, then project managers are councilors, and in the case of procedural tasks assigned by the state, project managers are heads of departments. This is a way for the entire municipal administration to start operating as a project, ie in the form of a project office. The same approach to project organization of work must be taken by all public institutes / agencies under the auspices of the municipality. Each segment (municipal administration, public institutes / agencies) operates on a project basis, but the municipality as a whole must also operate on a project basis. This means that at a higher level it is necessary to establish coordination between the municipal administration and all public institutions within the municipality. The municipality as a whole is organized by the project when the mayor, as the head of the umbrella project office in the municipality, takes care of the coordination of institutions under the auspices of the municipality and the municipal administration. Such an approach enables mutual cooperation on projects and joint drawing of human resources. Namely, the municipal administration as well as public institutes and public agencies within the municipality are going towards the same goal, so combining human resources on joint projects of the municipality is optimal.
Mayor at the head of the Leading Project Office in the municipality!
As we mentioned at the beginning, the mayor is a representative of the people, and the municipal administration and all other institutions under the auspices of the municipality (JZ, JA) are operational to achieve strategic goals. Thus, the role of the mayor is to establish a balance between the set strategic goals of the municipality and the available human, financial, material and technological resources (see Figure 6), which is easiest to establish if the entire municipality acts as an umbrella project office.
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13. Personal experience as a member of the Finance Committee in the Ptuj Municipality from 2004 to 2008 (Milan Krajnc Pavlica)
14. Professional experience, analysis of the work process in more than 50 Slovenian municipalities
15. Editor of the e-journal Project Office ISSN 1854-1240 (Milan Krajnc Pavlica)
Author of the article: Milan Krajnc, pedagogue, entrepreneur & crisis manager
I teach you to look “at yourself” as a third person. For more information or an introductory meeting, write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dynamic Leadership Model
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