|Training for Elected Leadership - The Councillor as Overseer (HABITAT, 1994, 16 p.)|
|Part I. Essay on the councillor as overseer|
If you have followed many of the suggestions outlined above, you should be in an excellent position to conduct routine monitoring and evaluation efforts. Here are some thoughts on how to be more effective in your overseer role once implementation is underway.
1. Don't get too involved, but get involved enough. The two greatest problems with councillors in carrying out their overseer role are over-involvement and under-involvement. Those of you who tend to get over-involved begin to undermine the staff's authority and responsibilities for implementation. Under involvement is often seen by staff as either disinterest, non-support, or a license to stray from the mandates of the council initiative. Both extremes of overseer behaviour can impede the implementation process.
2. Recognize the need for flexibility and inevitable adjustments in that which is being implemented. It is virtually impossible to envision every contingency that will visit the implementation of new policies and programmes. Be prepared to help the implementing staff or organization adjust to the emerging realities of operation.
3. Make room for the ambiguity that resides in the grey zones between policy and administration. There is more interdependence between the elected leadership and the administrative staff than either side likes to admit. Try to be comfortable with the zone of ambiguous feelings, messages, and actions that separate your respective territories. Negotiate the uncertainties that threaten to slow or sidetrack your efforts to move projects and programmes forward.
4. Decide how you're going to resolve differences between clashing factions before they begin to clash. Conflict is inevitable with new ventures and, as we said in the handbook on The Councillor as Facilitator, a healthy sign that progress is being made and people are thinking in alternative ways. Given its inevitability, plan on how you will manage the conflict in your overseer role and help others manage it in your absence.
5. Don't be afraid to say: "Enough is enough!" One of the great failings of elected bodies is to do a lot of high-decibel moaning and groaning when things go wrong, but then fail to take meaningful and decisive action to fix it.
The overseer role can give the council leverage to ensure that it gets what it thought it intended to get when it enacted policies and approved the budget. Your efforts in this arena of engagement with the local-government operations staff should provide assurance that your direction is being carried out and that the implementation gap between your intentions and expectations never grows beyond that which is reasonable and acceptable.