Would you buy management consulting from Management Solutions?

Management Solutions is a business unit owned and operated by the Local Government and Shires Association. Ordinarily regarded as authoritative and prudent about its observations because of its relationship with the employers peak bodies, a recent report provided to Nambucca Shire should make future clients cautious.

Nambucca is currently going through a process of reviewing its structure under severe financial restrictions and hampered by a preference of the current GM that the two Director structure remain - currently the GM is also responsible for corporate services but he was initially attracted to the idea that he could also do the planning.

So, they contracted Management Solutions to come in and give them advice. In a series of recommendations prefaced by more negative observations than positive ones, the consultants recommended that the GM absorb the role of Director of Environment Planning - something which "has been successfully achieved" at other councils.

This was news to us and we then went through a fruitless process trying to have the two consultants (Mark Anderson and Greg Ptok, if you were wondering) disclose where those councils were and what was the measure of whether the merger of the two positions had been successfully achieved. They refused - asserting that the Report was now owned by the Council and we should take it up with them but the Council didn’t know what the councils were either. And, so dissatisfied by this lack of professionalism and accuracy was Nambucca’s Consultative Committee, that they resolved, with only the GM’s dissenting vote, to send the report back.

Potentially this is putting the LGSA in a very difficult position. There are significant obligations on a Council going through structural change which may involve redundancy and they exist in the State Award because of an agreement between the LGSA and the three local government unions. And that in turn means that if we found ourselves in the Commission, having challenged the accuracy of that statement with a Council obliged to "provide to the employee(s) concerned and the unions to which they belong, all relevant information", the Council would have to disclose that Management Solutions had gone to ground and wasn't talking. What an awkward position for the Council to find itself in.

We challenged the information contained in the Report, the Council said the consultant hadn't given them information either and the consultants even refused to talk to us. "What business is it of yours?" one of the boofheads asked me.

In the end, (thanks Bill, for your intervention) Management Solutions told the Council that Bogan, Cootamundra and Narrabri were three councils where the role of the Director of Environment Planning had been taken over by the GM, the GM told the Consultative Committee and then we all knew.

But Management Solutions was wrong on all three.

Leaving aside that Bogan would be surprised if it got more than a dozen DAs a year and has absolutely nothing in common with Nambucca, Bogan has an organisational structure without any directors at all - reflecting the size of the Council, it’s just the GM and then a number of managers.

Cootamundra probably confused them because, while the GM is qualified as a planner, they are closer to the two Deputy General Managers model because all functions are divided between a Director Corporate Services and Director Engineering Services.

And wrong again on Narrabri. While the GM’s Department is also responsible for planning and development, work is carried out by properly qualified professionals. And just as the GM's Department is also responsible for Economic and Development but he’s not the Economic Development Officer, and responsible for Human Resources but he’s not the Human Resources Manager, the GM has not absorbed the responsibilities of a Director of Environment and Planning.

How embarrassing. Just as well Management Solutions has such a wide-ranging disclaimer about the accuracy of their observations and their data. Still, if you bought a dud second-hand car (or even a pretty damn good second-hand car with what Nambucca paid them) you get protection in a warranty.

What protection is any future client of Management Solutions going to get?

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