Australian local government and quality: motivations and challenges

The aim of the paper is to gather some insight into issues of the application of business excellence in Australian local government and to see if its unique characteristics matter all that much.

The research strategy is to look at some local governments which have been advanced in quality, use the ABEX framework and have won recognition for this. Whilst the sample is selective, it has the advantage of providing insights into practices and experiences of recognised leaders in the sector.

Interviews with CEOs and/or quality specialists in 7 local government organisations were arranged.

Results confirm that the use of business excellence in local government organisations in Australia has largely been internally driven by CEOs rather than any external forces (i.e. not governance, legislation, etc.). In most cases it has been due to a drive for a strategic approach in managing and running the business, and the framework is seen by most if not all CEOs as an integrated way of running a business. Since it is just a framework, it is not prescriptive and therefore allows each organisation to have its own identity, processes and systems.

The evidence suggests that excellence frameworks have applications in local government even though there are unique characteristics in this sector. The excellence models provide a generic business framework.

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