Three golden rules for effective change management in councils

Councils are in the privileged position of making a positive impact on the daily lives of Australians. But it’s a tough gig. Topline revenues are constrained and linked to planning cycles and costs are ever-rising. Doing more with less is a mantra. Driving efficiencies to stretch ratepayer dollars while maintaining services is a daily challenge.

Many councils use change or transformation programmes to drive efficiencies or improve services. While there might be good strategic thinking behind the change, the success of these initiatives will largely depend on their execution and communication.

If your council is considering a change program, here are our three essential tips to ensure its success.


1. Communicate early and often

Start talking about the upcoming change well before it happens.

Informing everyone that change is coming, ensures that when the date arrives, employees can be ready for it. Without clear messaging on why the change is occurring, and what the impact will be, a fearful culture can begin to cultivate, which can be a massive distraction from their day-to-day responsibilities.

They will want to know how they will be impacted, whether their position is safe, and assurance that the change will be beneficial to council operations. Successful change management does not start from when the change occurs, it starts much, much earlier during the early planning phase.

People tend to hear what they want to hear, and we all absorb information differently. Effective change comms should be regular, consistent, and across a variety of channels (think intranet, team meetings, town halls, video messages, infographics, FAQs and all-staff emails). This approach ensures the message is received loud and clear, leaving no room for surprises.


2. Make it personal

And relevant. Change isn't one-size-fits-all. Creating personalised plans for teams and individuals affected by change is vital for preparation and acceptance. A common scenario for change managers is the transition from manual processes to greater use of technology and automation. In this case, your staff will need to learn a new skill and familiarise themselves with a new way of doing things. This requires showing employees how to integrate these new tools into their daily tasks.

Providing specific details on what processes are affected, how this will be different from what they do today, and when this will occur, is a crucial step in managing even the smallest of organisational changes. Ensuring staff affected by the change have been trained on the new processes or technology and importantly, where to go for help should they need it, is crucial to a successful implementation.

REMEMBER: Your residents, customers and other external stakeholders need to be considered in change management too. They may need to adapt to new ways of interacting with your council or how they use your services. Applying the same principles of clear communication and support ensures the success of any change program, no matter how big or small.


3. Data is your friend

A common belief is that communication is at the core of successful change management. And indeed it is critical, but it’s only one part of the machine.

In reality, data is at the core of successful change management. In the traditional sense, this includes everything from financial information, IP and employee records, but it's also about understanding how information travels within an organisation.

Before an organisational change, it's essential to fully understand all aspects of both your tangible and intangible data. In the common case of shifting from a server to the cloud, recognising exactly how your data is stored, and how this will differ after the change, is paramount to a smooth transition.

On an interpersonal level, knowing and understanding the exchange of data throughout an organisation is the make or break of change. For 20 employees, what appears to be a minor shift in process, may also affect the 500 employees reporting to them - and those 500 employees may be customer-facing.

Understanding the way information travels is key to ensuring all stakeholders, especially customers, can seamlessly adapt to the change.



In conclusion, Australian councils are uniquely positioned to make a significant impact on the communities they serve, despite the challenges of limited budgets and increasing costs. Embracing change or transformation programs can lead to greater efficiencies and improved services, but success hinges on effective execution and communication.


Our three essential tips for successful change management - communicating early and often, making it personal and relevant, and leveraging data—can guide your council through the complexities of change. By starting communication early, tailoring change to individuals, and understanding the importance of data, councils can ensure a smoother transition for employees, stakeholders, and the community alike.


As councils navigate these changes, remember that the goal is to enhance the daily lives of Australians while maintaining the quality of services within the constraints of available resources. With thoughtful planning, clear communication, and a focus on the needs of all affected by the change, your council can achieve successful outcomes from its change initiatives, reinforcing its commitment to serving the community effectively.


Date: 21st December 2023
Category: Change Management , Local Government
Next article

The Impact of “Big Data” on HR