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Friday, July 19, 2019

Little merit to expensive moves stemming from org. review

The writing was on the wall a year ago when Woolwich decided it would drop $60,000 on an unneeded organizational review: the consultant’s report would be an excuse to hire more staff.

A year later, lo and behold, a report surfaces that recommends hiring more administrative staff.

That’s no surprise, and should have been reason enough to quash the idea when it was rolled out during the 2018 budget discussions.

More troubling, but again not surprising, the report is long on platitudes and generalities, but very short on justifications for any new hires.

In the private sector, such organizational reviews are carried out in large companies for two overarching reasons: reducing costs through the elimination of positions deemed unneeded and generating more productivity by re-allocating staff resources. Neither of those things was accomplished in this case.

Moreover, Woolwich is a small organization that doesn’t require an outside party to get a handle on the scope of its operations. With some 73 full-time staff members, the township has a senior management team that makes up about 10 per cent of that number: surely they should have a grasp on what needs to be done, which employs aren’t doing their jobs effectively enough to stay on, where the foot-dragging is occurring and which roles bring value to the public, the latter being the only criterion worth considering in many cases.

As with most consultancy reports, this one reads like it was written to achieve a pre-ordained goal. Government bureaucracies often use such tactics to obtain third-party support for preferred outcomes: it makes it appear as though there’s an objective rationale for the goal. It’s also a way to cover one’s backside. Still, this report, as with others, essentially reflects back to the township the words of the staff members interviewed by the consultant – we’re busy, so we need more staff. Oh, and the ever-present “we’re a growing community” trope.

Sure, there’s been growth in Woolwich, but township spending has outstripped population growth by a factor of three, and outpacing inflation by an even greater margin. Tax increases, again above inflation in most years, are part of that, but Woolwich has been the beneficiary of large jumps in assessment growth over the last decade, with most of that money being channelled into staff and operating costs rather than infrastructure, tax abatement and longer-term benefits. And spending has never been adjusted downward in years where assessment growth and building revenues have dipped. The organizational review makes no provisions for times ahead when staff cuts will be needed.

Again, such considerations were not part of the game plan for this report, as is the case with all such consultant’s documents.

That none of this was considered by council compounds the troubling nature of the situation. A couple of councillors expressed their skepticism, but it wasn’t enough to put the brakes on a process that was pre-ordained even before the first suggestion a year ago that Woolwich hire someone to review its org. chart. Such an oversight – or lack thereof, one might also say – is an extension of the same tinkering at the edges that occurs during each year’s budget deliberations – council simply does not look at the big picture, nor does it do the hard work necessary to ensure the public good wins out over what’s presented to them in the lightly discussed documents put in front of them.

The real beneficial review might start in the room. Well, chamber, in this case.

Steve Kannon
Steve Kannonhttps://www.observerxtra.com
A community newspaper journalist for more than two decades, Steve Kannon is the editor of the Observer.


  1. You are right on with all comments. One need just take a walk around our new rec complex, to see surplus staff, trying to look busy. Just another example of staff building their little empires to justify their own existence. Oh well, they know there is no shortage of available tax dollars.

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