Provincial Council 5 Minute Management

Who’d have thought he had an MBA?!” she said incredulously of a local leader. Me for one. I used to be impressed by MBA’s. Until I found out Eric Watson had one. And Wayne Brown.

MBA’s to me now, are less about excellent management practice by people who’ve been in industry, and all about clandestine cult training in the Machiavellian arts of speculation and the manipulation of statistics. It’s only the owners of them who fail to acknowledge that post the GFC they are, well, toast.

An MBA is the pass to a technocracy from whose management style it will take us about 10 years to recover. A style particularly favoured by local councils and developers for the last 15 years. “Always get on with the person with the money” Is Wayne Brown’s number one rule in his book ‘5 minute MBA.’ If he were a woman there’d be another title he’d be given for this maxim.

The problem is that it’s not the majority who have that kind of money. As John Ralston puts it in his excellent book ‘Voltaire’s Bastards’, ‘These leaders are masters of backstairs battles and withholding information. They are merchants of knowledge, selling it in return for power and set enormous value upon secrecy. Intentionally or otherwise, their methods induce fear among those who must deal with them regularly. Almost without exception they are bullies. Combined with the use of secrecy, it is used to frighten people on the practical level of their incomes, pensions and careers.” It doesn’t favour memory or reflection either and it depends on a highly specialized dialect, unintelligible to normal people therefore depriving them of the vocabulary with which they might complain. Anyone having experienced the displeasure of asking a provincial council for information will know what I’m talking about.

Once you’ve recovered from being beaten around the head with the Official Information Act it feels like being trapped in a Dilbert cartoon; “I Mordac, the Preventer of Information, reject your questions because you used the wrong words and so I feed on your anger and frustration! And now I will eat like a king!!” “Good luck with that. I’ve been dead on the inside since the signing off of the HAC.”

I object to being told by Craig Brown in Sunday’s paper that the biggest thing holding Northland back is apathy, because the apathy is learnt. It’s a rational self-protective response of resignation by the little people to an established elite who have no intention of relinquishing power.

We see the same faces and the same management style repeated over and over again.

If Boards were boyfriends some of these guys would be the town bike. They pop up on almost every one and it’s a merry-go-round of recycled public sector CEO’s and board members that the public seem unable to shake. They can leave behind a train-wreck and rate-payers have to fork out 240K as a thank-you gift. They can oversee a financially ruinous public works blow out in one council and get re-hired in another town as a reward. Just don’t question them about it. ‘The talents of the technocrat do not suit public debate or an open relationship with the people.” This is amply evident when a WDC councillor says of protesting rate-payers at a recent meeting; ‘Ignore them this is our meeting not theirs.” Ralston again; ‘This self-protective, self-satisfied provincialism resembles the dialect and mannerisms of declining aristocracies.”

The biggest thing holding Northland back is a lack of real-world leadership working with, and not at cross-purposes to, the public good.

Unfortunately, what we’ve had is anything but with an ever-burgeoning debt and a litany of lost business opportunities.

If I had an MBA I could tell you why that was a good thing.

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