25 August 2011

School report for the Chief Executive

It is only the most determined of researcher who can find anything on the Barnet Council website as not all items are indexed in the A-Z index and those that are are placed out of order to make finding them more of a challenge. Mr Mustard relishes a little game so he just keeps looking until he reaches his goal.

Mr Mustard doesn't suppose that the school report performance overview of the Chief Executive has been downloaded many times from the council website and so this blog post will bring it to the attention of a wider audience in accordance with the council's stated policy of openness and transparency ( do try not to laugh at the back Mrs Angry ). 

Now given that:-
  1. the Chief Executive previously worked for the council as the Director of Resources so should know the ropes ( not be on the ropes ) and
  2. is paid a zillion pounds a year, actually £200,976 p.a. ( + a pension contribution of £49,842 ) and 
  3. as the head of the organisation should lead by example
then one would expect that his school report would be all A's and "well done", with perhaps a single B for his least favourite subject, because if not why is he the head boy? Now at One Barnet they have a very complicated performance system which even the creator probably doesn't understand and so it has been made more complicated, in order to make it simpler, by the addition of a traffic light system in which Red is very bad, Amber isn't good and Green is the expected mark.  

So, the pages to come will be awash with green ink, won't they? What, maybe a little dash of amber here and there can be forgiven? Readers won't expect to see any red ink at all now will you? Mr Mustard is sorry to tell you that the report is not a pretty sight. Here goes :-

click to enlarge and then back to return

Mr Mustard has looked at the job description of the Chief Exec. It includes

Change leadership – Develops and communicates a compelling vision which inspires people to embrace positive change and continually strive for improved performance.

Mr Mustard sees that the HR ( Human  Resources ) rating is red and -3. Oh dear.
The Corporate Plan performance rating is amber and -1. Oh deary me again.
As for the key project rating; that seems to be so bad that it has been left as tbc ( to be confirmed ). Oh deary deary me.

The top 3 achievements:

If a reviled library strategy is the top achievement then Mr Mustard certainly does not want to see the bottom one. Mr Mustard wonders if the Chief Exec has had time to look in the Ham & High at this article?

The second achievement. Moving some staff from one team to another. Wow! ( and more money for MJW Office Moves Ltd )
Pop down to the top of page 2 and then return here please dear reader. 
Mr Mustard does not remember seeing a press release last year that the massive proportion of 37% of calls about school admissions were answered last year. This year 93% were answered. So there were 135,633 calls on this subject in the year ended October 2010 which means that about 9,500 calls were not answered. Mr Mustard does not call that an achievement. He calls it a disaster; 9,500 unhappy customers. A customer centric council - mere words.

The third achievement. "Management of internal communications" and the establishment of "internal communications champions". So the holder of non-job no. 7 needs more support. Who are these "internal communications champions" ? If you are one please send any blurb about what you do to mrmustard@zoho.com
Now the top 3 "issues" - perhaps "problems" would be a better word.

The first one. Substantial pressure on senior management capacity... So either headless chickens or blue arsed flies or any other description you choose to put in the comments section.

The second one. Increased footfall and pressure on staff at face to face sites and telephones... If Barnet Council cannot master answering the telephone promptly what hope is there for the extremely complicated One Barnet outsourcing?

The third one is that the CISCO telephone contract expires in Summer 2011 - that is rather a vague date. A business case is being developed by Information Systems to upgrade the systems. Mr Mustard expects this will be quite expensive and he has not seen a Delegated Powers Report for it or an OJEU notice if it is for more than £150,000 or so and given that doubtless the network carries data as well as voice calls it will cost quite a bit and then a few months later all the calls will be routed to an external call centre - genius.

Then we have:

1.2 Key correlations and interdependencies. What are they ? No idea.

Although the headings includes correlations only interdependencies are listed. Mr Mustard notes that Barnet has moved to West London for transport purposes. That will be cheaper of course. 

So there are nine inter-dependencies listed and just one of them would stretch superman, but the Chief Executive is a mere mortal. Mr Mustard notes that the Chief Exec is going to take a lead role in the Revenues and Benefits customer experience improvement (but not in the staff morale improvement experience?)

Has the Chief Exec taken a lead role in popping along the corridor to that department to have a chat with the staff to see why they are working to rule? - not as far as Mr Mustard is aware. 

Is, however, the Chief Executive going to "pop" ( at least 2 hours each way ) to The Barnet Council Hotel Sandbanks Hotel at (our) great expense and time cost to talk for a maximum of 30 minutes? Yes he most certainly is ( 6.30pm to 7pm on 5 October 2011 ). Even that is a double act with Robert McCulloch-Graham, Director of Children’s Services. So the Chief Exec may talk for as little as 15 minutes ( but doubtless then scoff a fine dinner & maybe rest his weary head on the finest pillows ) to Headteachers at their annual jamboree conference which will be the subject of another blog nearer the time.

Readers can decide for themselves if priorities are perhaps a bit wrong?

Let us look at the spending now. An underspend of £78,000 which is explained away as an underspend on conference expenses. How much money is Barnet habitually wasting on conferences instead of services ?

Library services. An underspend of £137,000. Would that keep a library open for another year in which time budget pressures might change and it could then remain open?

Performance is somewhat red. 

18a. So only 64% of telephone calls were answered within 5 rings which are rather generously counted in some quarters as 20 seconds ( this is probably a function of system software limitations ). Barnet Council is really not in the real world. The target is a miserable 75%. The target should be 100%. Nothing else is good enough. 

In Barclays Bank head office the staff are expected to answer calls within 2 rings and if the boss rings and you are slow to answer then he gets annoyed. If you want to get on you answer the phone. Referring back to yesterday's blog post this is a bad time to outsource the answering of the telephone. The service should be improved first.

18b. This really is a pointless target which Barnet Council have also missed by a mile. What could be more simple than setting up an automatic acknowledgement for all emails received? However Mr Mustard thinks that acknowledgments are a stupid waste of time. Sometimes it takes officers longer to acknowledge his FOI requests than it would do for them to actually answer the request. 

The Glossary about terms used in these reports says Benchmark data is:

Comparable performance information collected from other organisations to contextualise your own organisation’s performance. It is used to identify higher performing organisations so that good practise and new ideas can be observed and learned. ( You are the expert in the use of English Mrs A, should that be "practice" not "practise"? You could organise writing courses for Barnet Council; £2,000 a day no problem )

If so and Richmond are meant to be best in class at 74% Mr Mustard can only conclude that all councils are rubbish.

When is a benchmark not a benchmark ? 
When it's a Barnet Council benchmark !

Back to 18a for a minute. However having suddenly decided to take a look at the previous quarter's report, Mr Mustard finds that the Benchmark data chosen then for answering the telephone was 79% with a miserable Barnet target of 75%. How was the Benchmark data chosen? 5 local authorities - Winchester, Southampton, Wakefield, Dacorum & Richmond upon Thames - chosen because they all have targets similar to Barnet Council. So that isn't Benchmark data is it? It is Barnet Council's target dressed up as a Benchmark.

So the Benchmark chosen does not fit the declared meaning:

It's a fudge. 
A meaningless number. 
Not a target to aspire to. 
Just some padding to make the report look less bad. 

Barnet Council, you disgust Mr Mustard with your stupid tricks. 

You can keep trying to pull the wool over the eyes of bloggers but each time you do and get caught your reputation suffers another drop.

18c. Mr Mustard finds discrepancies in Barnet Council's reports all of the time. Look at 18c. All council services received 3,837 emails. OK. Yet if you look at the line above Corporate Customer Services alone received 5,417 emails in the same period. One of the figures must be incorrect. This is typical of Barnet Council and means that councillors should not rely on any report presented to them but challenge them against common sense and other reports. 

The 10 day target is not applied to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests for which 20 working days appear to be routinely & deliberately taken but that will be a blog post for another day.

Anyway this is yet another target missed. The direction of travel (DoT ) is in the wrong direction for the first three performance indicators.

18d. Face to face meetings. 33 unhappy customers and service getting worse..

18e. No statistics and no explanation. We can probably fairly assume that the performance on emails was as dire as on phone calls.

18f. How odd. A budgeted time to wait of 11 minutes. 

18b & c; more evidence that SAP is out of control. A problem has to be escalated several times. Mr Mustard notes that Barnet Council are about to increase the number of bank holidays in existence in Barnet. So the solution to a missed target is to move it.

Mr Mustard wonders if Barnet Council might be able to correct their reports so that the heading of the table is not at the bottom of a page with the data on the next one. It is really not helpful.

Why don't employees come to work?  Are they sick of One Barnet and all of the changes? Do they fear that their job is going to be outsourced so why bother? Look, even managers can't be bothered to put in returns of absences.

The number of absence days, 1778, is the equivalent of 7 employees permanently missing from work.

Only 73% of posts in the Chief Exec's service are permanent employees. It is impossible to be efficacious in such a scenario.

There are 21 temps from Hays and this was up 61% over the previous quarter. This is terrible.

There are 35 staff on fixed term contracts who are covering permanent posts. 

The question that should be asked is why Barnet Council cannot fill its permanent posts as until they do results will suffer.

The heading is incorrect. Item 5 is actually item 6. No decent proofreaders at Barnet Council  ?

The number of consultants will be available for the next report and will doubtless be shocking reading.

Look at the Risk Overview. The library strategy is a project management challenge ( that means - how the heck are we going to do this whilst we have all these other self-inflicted changes going on?) . The solution; another project manager ( consultant? ) .

More red ink on Staffing & Culture. Will service areas support the consolidation of the Customer Support Organisation. Mr Mustard somehow doubts it as he thinks that the strategy is plain & simply the wrong one. 

What would Mr Mustard want if he rang the council? 

Would he want just one number he could ring and which he could then ask 25 questions on 25 subjects of some person who only really knew anything about any one of them? or

Would he prefer to ring Highways about Highways
Parking about Parking
Schools about Schools
Homes about Homes
etc etc.

Mr Mustard would always prefer to talk to an expert in their field and avoids call centres like the plague. They are a frustrating waste of time.

ST0032 Business Continuity - Mr Mustard wonders why this has suddenly become such a high risk project?  Did no-one at the council know when the contract was due to finish perhaps because the central register of contracts was incomplete? Interestingly, this risk did not appear as a risk in the previous quarter's return.

Corporate Plan improvement initiatives.

One Barnet is a car crash but at least it has a new dashboard!

Mr Mustard will report on the new improved dashboard once he sees it.

What is he worth?

So  there we have it; a pretty damning report. Overall summary - you can make up your own but Mr Mustard thinks that performance has suffered by the head boy getting in with the wrong gang, the One Barnet Boys.

Picture credit : www.ukcanes.com

His tuck shop takings have been quite high this year at £200,976. To the right there is a poll as Mr Mustard has not had one for a while. The poll is, What is the highest salary that any Barnet Council employee should be paid. Enjoy ( and no voting if you work for Barnet Council - play fair now! )

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

1 comment:

  1. well, well, well: dear oh dear, Mr Walkley. I think you need to stand in the corridor outside Mrs Angry's office and think very hard about where you are going wrong. The Board of Governors may well have to think of permanent exclusion, if this sort of behaviour carries on.

    Just out of interest, Mr Mustard, who does the performance evaluation of the CEO?

    Perhaps we should hire ourselves as consultants to the LBBroken Barnet? I'm sure our terms would be perfectly reasonable, and if not we can always have the fees redacted from the online expenditure.

    And what were you doing, Mr Mustard, visiting the UKcanes.com website? Another visit to Streatham n the offing? Remember it's a one way street.


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