"This is not a crisis it's a period of transition". The dream job is turning into a nightmare. You knew this was a high profile job in a high profile organisation. You knew the previous chief executive had been in post for ever and had acquired almost mythical status. This was the top job in one of the biggest and most successful organisations in the country. Success last year meant the former chief executive went out on a high leaving the board and stake holders with high expectations of continued success. No one is more surprised than you that the winning formula no longer seems to be working. You have the same senior management team, the same resources at your disposal the policies haven't changed but the performances have. A series of critical reports have highlighted weakness in services. You would like to reinforce the management structure to bring in some much needed experience and fresh ideas but there is no money in fact the budget position is dramatically different to what you had been lead to believe. Your senior managers have a tendency to say we never had these problems before as if you brought them with you and the board are reluctant to accept that the previous chief executive glossed over weakness preferring instead to emphases strengths and successes. Truth is the organisation has been over achieving for some time and its reputation is based on past performance rather than recent. When hit by a scandal in the children's services the local media gave sympathetic treatment to the former chief executive and senior managers saying they we're let down by those they entrusted. The former chief executive seems to have been beyond criticism, the deal he advised members to accept for BT to provide IT and a range of support services has not only failed to provide the promised savings it has tied us into a long term contract the lawyers say will be horrendously expensive to get out of. In the mean time we have a Rolls Royce computer system when all we needed was a ford fiesta.
A recent industrial tribunal case has caused considerable embarrassment by exposing a disciplinary process in which scores of staff were found to have been suspended on full pay for over 12 months and a major investigation had resulted in finding hundreds of staff were accessing porn on their lap tops. HR is in chaos and members will shortly receive a report which reveilles the true extent of absenteeism within the organisation. The local paper has just run a series of front page articles headed simply "Town Hall in Crisis". The local radio phone ins reflected the popular view that those at the top didn't know what they were doing. How long before the board decides to shoot the messenger?
You just hope you're given the time and support to address the issues. You put in the hours keeping members informed and on board, openness is the watch word so regular meetings with the editor of the local paper, an open door policy with the trade union and an endless round of meetings with service user groups to offer reassurance. The biggest critics have been the local MPs some of whom have always been at logs heads with their local council and now have an audience for their concerns. Regular one to ones have been arranged over the next six months to listen to their concerns. Every day starts and ends with a catch up with the chair the two of you are in this together!
Blair McPherson author of Equipping managers for an uncertain future published by Russell House www.blairmcpherson.co.uk