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WORK LIFE - WHAT'S IN A NAME

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Rebecca Coombes looks at new trends in job titles ...
Rebecca Coombes looks at new trends in job titles

Head of organisational performance

Why do the good people of Torridge DC need a head of organisational performance?

For starters, the council was given a 'poor' rating in its comprehensive performance assessment and needed to improve quickly.

A particular weakness was the council's 'ability to monitor its success and impact of what it does'. Enter Andrew Winfield, fresh from the Welsh Local Government Association where he was benchmarking manager.

He says: 'It is not an unusual post - you see a lot of heads of performance and corporate planning. What is unusual is seeing this job in a district council as well as it having a wide range of support service functions.'

Mr Winfield certainly is a jack of all trades. As well as organisational development and performance, he also heads up human resources, legal services, democratic services, licensing and sustainability.

So what is the common thread linking these duties? 'There isn't one really,' he admits. 'My take on it is that in small councils you get a consolidation of service areas. In county councils you would expect to see a policy and corporate planning team - a dedicated group reporting to the chief executive, concerned with the best value and CPA part of the service.'

He likes the word 'organisational' in his job title: 'It's not until fairly recently that you would see it. It tells me this is a role across the whole of the organisation.

'One of my jobs is to gain the confidence of other services that we are a resource able to help them and are not checking off boxes to see if they have returned their statutory performance indicators in time,' he adds.

But have other councils decided the tag 'organisational performance' fits with their needs? Jill Barrow, director of consultancy and development at GatenbySanderson, which carries out executive search and selection for the public sector, says similar jobs can also be called head of performance, or quality, or cultural change or even change management.

The important thing is to recruit someone with the right background, she says.

'A human resources background is relevant, as well as an understanding of performance per se,' she counsels.

'These posts are essentially about helping large and complex organisations respond rapidly to changes in a climate that is highly regulated and inspected. There is a lot of pressure.'

Mr Winfield says there was no support for performance management under the previous regime, leaving him with 'a lot of work to do'.

He expects the service areas to be generally self managing: 'I have overall responsibility and can give guidance and support. But my key role, as I see it, is to provide significant support to the corporate support team. We had a weak result on the area of performance management in the CPA. There is a lot of work going on to take it forward through the rescue plan.'

Mr Winfield is extremely candid about his job: 'People considering whether to apply for this job may have had mixed views. I quickly found out it was judged weak. You have to decide whether you want to get your teeth into something.'

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