Let’s start at the end; with a very big congratulations to the Not-So-Secret-Agents, the Sunshine Coast Council team, the ultimate winners of the Australasian Management Challenge 2016. According to team mentor, Bronwyn Forster, herself a former Challenger and now fourth time mentor, ‘It was a fabulous experience getting to witness the journey as these individuals got to know each other, develop as a team and work together so well.
Before taking on the regional Challenge, teams undertake a pre-challenge task to help them understand each other’s strengths and develop strategies for the Challenge. The task is related to real, topical issues that organisations deal with, and is the first of the professional development components. On competition days the teams are given several timed tasks that typify management activities in the local government environment and develop individual and team competencies. The judging panel provides detailed and targeted reports for workplace debriefing and the application of learning outcomes.
According to Bronwyn Forster, the Challenge ‘is a unique opportunity to be exposed to such a wide range of local government focused tasks. And given the learning is in this safe environment rather than on the job, people are able to voice their ideas and contribute fully to the team – potentially discovering new strengths. The Management Challenge is a really well-run initiative, and the networks are great and will – already have – continue to carry forward. Even from my own perspective, this year’s Challenge has made a difference, as I’d recently moved to the Sunshine Coast from another council. I was still building my networks, and being involved with the Management Challenge helped me get to know people from across the council’.
This year, our principal partner, JLT had a representative on the judging panel. JLT also designed and ran one of the tasks. According to JLT’s Robyn Daly, ‘We set up a scenario in which a council made a decision to improve safety on public land, – banning the use of hard cricket balls in a public park – that became a public relations crisis when various community groups protested. The challenge (pun intended) was how to manage the fallout, balance safety against risk, maintain Council’s reputation and reach an outcome that responded to the community’s expectations.’
One thing that did stand out as an area for improvement for most of the participants was the need to challenge the assumptions they made and really make sure they understood the issue or situation they had to deal with, and the steps they needed to follow to get the job done. According to Robyn, highlighting this need to pay attention to detail was a core strength of the program. ‘Things happened fast, and it was important that the participants really understood what was required so they could react in the allocated time. It was real life; the teams had to be on the ball or they missed the chance to handle a situation well and get the best outcome. From a judge’s perspective, it was completely transparent – the best teams had worked together to create comprehensive, on-mark and effective responses.’
Of her own involvement, Robyn said, ‘Being a part of the judging panel was a great experience and good fun. Over the two days it was impossible not to be caught up in the positive energy as the result of the competitive comraderie. Given that JLT nationally partners with Local Government Professionals Australia, we are on the same wavelength. It’s a very symbiotic relationship – I could relate to what the facilitators were aiming to achieve, the learning imparted, how the participants ‘got it’ and embraced it.’