Priority actions for leaders

These are high-risk aspects of the amalgamation process that can have a significant or detrimental impact if not managed effectively.

Stage 1 - Review

Governance

  • Determine the right project framework and governance structure, specific to the needs and culture of the existing council/s. Consider establishing a Local Transition Committee with representatives from the amalgamating councils to oversee the planning and implementation of amalgamation. There is also additional information about transition committees in the NSW Government’s Preparing for Change: Guidance for Councils document.
  • Establish and activate specialist project teams, with Terms of Reference and reporting lines back to the Local Transition Committee. The number and responsibilities of working groups may vary by council, depending on their unique structure and circumstances. However, working groups may be established for:
    • Asset management
    • Business systems
    • Communications
    • Community consultation
    • Community services
    • Compliance and legal
    • Customer service
    • Due diligence
    • Environmental management
    • Financial management
    • Governance
    • Integrated planning and reporting
    • Local water utilities
    • Procurement
    • Property management
    • Planning and development
    • Records management
    • Risk management
    • Service delivery
    • Waste management
    • Workplace reform.
  • Prepare an overarching Transition Action Plan documenting the framework, key tasks and milestones. A Transition Plan Template (PDF, 309KB) (reproduced from Attachment E of the LGNSW Workplace Reform Kit (PDF,1.82MB) provides an example of how this might be handled, and the WALGA Template Transition Project Action Plan (Excel, 172KB) provides another example for reference. There are also examples of working documents from councils preparing for 2016 mergers on the Resources page. The NSW Government’s Preparing for Change: Guidance for Councils document also contains relevant information, including a sample table of contents.
  • Update and collate an inventory of all delegations.
  • Identify all compliance and audit processes and documents as required under the Act and Regulations.

Leading and managing change

Communications

Interim organisational structure

  • In preparation for designing an interim organisational structure at a later stage, review current organisational structures of your council and if you can assess the comparable state of the merging councils.  It is possible that the NSW Government will specify an interim organisational structure as part of the proclamation, but it will be nevertheless valuable to document existing structures in the preparation phase. See Interim Organisation Structure - Considerations (PDF, 332KB) for guidance and the 'Leading and managing workplace change' section of the 'Resources' list.
  • With the Workplace Reform working group, ensure the workforce plan is current.

Due diligence

Risk management

  • Undertake an assessment of the existing councils’ risk management practices, processes and culture.

Reform costs

  • Establish a systematic approach and data collection tool to identify and document reform related expenditure. Information collected might include actual and forecast reform related expenditure, cost savings, increases / decreases in levels of service and in-kind support.
  • Recommended practices to be integrated into the tool include:
    • Provide an explanation of how savings have been derived; and
    • Provide an explanation of why a cost is essential to council’s ability to provide continued/improved service delivery, how it is directly attributable to the structural reform process and is not discretionary in nature.
    • Group costs and/or savings into service delivery arrangements or functions i.e. waste management services, administrative arrangements (including procurement), fleet and plant operations, wage parity, operations, ICT, administration and governance.
    • Identify costs as recurrent, capital or one-off.
    • Adopt an ‘evidence based’ approach to support findings and assist with future analysis / review (if applicable).

Regulatory and policy framework

  • Review the community strategic plan and delivery program for strategic direction, key goals and objectives.
  • Develop an inventory of all existing policies currently utilised, as well as processes that support policy making. Refer to synopses being prepared by relevant working groups.

Stage 2 - Plan

Governance

  • Revisit the project framework, governance structure and overarching Transition Action Plan in light of the needs and preferences of the amalgamating councils. Agree appropriate approach and amend accordingly. The Determining an agreed approach to the change management process (PDF, 194KB) document contains questions to ask to help align corporate culture.
  • Liaise with key working groups as appropriate and on an ongoing basis.
  • Implement a structured planning tool to support project management of the merger. See 'Managing the Amalgamation' in the 'Resources' section of this toolkit.
  • Set and agree performance benchmarks/deliverables that will be measured for the merger process and working groups i.e. what does success look like/how will we know that the implementation has been successful?
  • Reporting mechanisms for each working group, and overall, in place. 

Leading and managing change

  • Monitor progress and address issues as they arise. Provide regular information and progress updates.
  • Continue to build capacity and capability - ensure all staff are supported.
  • Ensure resource plan has support for business as usual and merger implementation work to be managed well in parallel.
  • Plan to handle staffing issues regarding the detractors vs the supporters.

Commencement day

  • In discussion with the amalgamating council, establish an agreed position on the expectations and requirements for Commencement Day. See the Day 1: Commencement Day Checklist (PDF, 255KB) for guidance on tasks that should be completed when the new entity commences.
  • Develop an overarching Commencement Day plan, with inputs from key working groups. As a minimum, this should include a specific communications plan and risk assessment for Commencement Day, but can also include areas such as workforce and morale, systems and process, accommodation/premises, marketing collateral, service provision, after hours contact details etc.
  • Consider having specialist working groups devise their own Commencement Day plan.

Communications

  • With the communications working group, develop a communications and media plan, ensuring key reform milestones are supported by communication activities for internal and external audiences. This may incorporate both internal and external activities, or comprise two separate plans for internal and external audiences.
  • Begin to drive and resource the communications plan regarding the transition, continuously auditing communications processes for effectiveness.
  • With workplace reform working group, conduct a people and culture survey (PDF, 391KB) to establish a benchmark understanding of employee engagement and morale levels. Collate survey responses, analyse, communicate and respond accordingly.
  • Ensure external communications activities are aligned with and support community consultation processes.

Interim organisational structure

  • Informed by knowledge of existing structure and functions, commence development of interim organisational structure. Specifically:
    • Determine desired type of structure for new entity i.e. Functional, Geographical or Hybrid.
    • Working with operational staff, determine interim structure in line with proposed service provision and service delivery model.
    • Review, publish and communicate interim structure.
    • Develop an interim organisational structure implementation plan. This may include identification of executive roles and responsibilities, lines of management, budgets and associated costs.
  • It is possible that the NSW Government will specify an interim organisational structure as part of the proclamation, so leaders will need to revisit this once more information becomes available.

Due diligence

  • In partnership with the merging councils commence analysis of all current state documentation. See the Due Diligence - Key Deliverables and Key Areas (Word, 443KB) document.
  • As part of the analysis of current state documentation:
    • Review the constitution and obligations of current and proposed membership of new entities and determine membership suitability. Advise new entities of changes, new contact details etc. Prepare recommendations for renewal / continuity / cancellation of membership for the new entity
    • Collate and review existing property ownership details. Amend transfer to other entity if required. Include outcomes in due diligence report.
    • Collate and review existing registered entitlements and protections and identify any issues associated with shared entitlement. Councils should consider ownership in intellectual property and prepare agreements as to future use and entitlement.
  • Establish a compliance and audit framework that encapsulates all compliance systems and processes, documents, reporting and registers as required under the Act and Regulations.
  • Finalise the due diligence report for the Local Transition Committee, Council and General Managers.

Risk management

  • Commence sharing and comparing risk information with merging councils to further understand the individual risk management culture, risk exposures, controls comparison and areas of priority.
  • With the merging partners, undertake a risk assessment of the transition process and establish a risk management plan. Ensure the risk assessment determines the level of uncertainty regarding the merging of strategic, operational, human resources, systems, financial and legal objectives.
  • Regularly monitor, review and report risks, controls, risk acceptance decision and treatment implementation throughout the planning phase.
  • Review and revise risk governance, including the risk and audit committee requirements for the new entity and risk management policy.

Reform costs

  • Continue to monitor and log reform costs.

Regulatory and policy framework

  • Commence development of a Common Seal for the new entity, with draft designs to be prepared for consideration.
  • Establish a base level suite of Policies for each business unit. Develop a standard policy and processes template and distribute to specialist working groups for use.
  • Instruct each working group to collate a list of activities that can be delegated or where ‘acting through’ is appropriate. Distribute an Instrument of delegation template, and commence drafting the delegations manual.

Stage 3 - Mobilise

Governance

  • Adherence to merger implementation project plan and tasks for all streams.
  • Monitor progress against deliverables, benchmarks and timeframes documented in the overarching transition action plan.
  • Liaise with key working groups as appropriate on an ongoing basis and monitor progress.

Leading and managing change

  • Continue to implement change management strategies and monitor effectiveness.
  • Articulate the mandate for change to take place, empowering employees to engage in the transition process.
  • Monitor progress and address issues as they arise. Provide regular information and progress updates and celebrate successes achieved to date.
  • Ensure change leaders and line managers have adequate resources in addition to personal support (they will be managing employee relations in addition to service and structural changes).
  • Communicate draft new entity structure and reporting lines and strategic direction as soon as available.
  • Ensure staff will be supported should positions become redundant in the future by setting up Outplacement Services for staff.

Commencement day

  • Communicate the Commencement Day plan, and ensure all business units are captured within the overarching or specialist areas.
  • Implement any pre-Commencement Day activities documented in the Commencement Day plan.

Communications

  • Continue to employ the internal and external communications plan.
  • Continue to resource communications regarding the transition, continuously auditing communications processes for effectiveness.

Interim organisational structure

  • Appoint Interim General Manager, if required.
  • Confirm appointments and mobilise employees if applicable.
  • Implement the interim organisational structure implementation plan.
  • Engage with the workplace reform working group as they commence design of HR systems and processes to support the new structure and entity – industrial relations framework, reward and recognition, performance management frameworks, talent management, case management of redeployment and voluntary redundancy matters, recruitment and transmittal of employees where possible.
  • Budgets confirmed and included in long term financial plan, resourcing strategy and forthcoming operational plan.
  • Finalise, publish and communicate interim structure.

Due diligence

  • Liaise with key working groups as appropriate and on an ongoing basis.
  • Present the findings of the due diligence report to all key working groups and stakeholders. Amend any work schedules / project plans and time lines, in light of findings of report.
  • Ensure all outstanding compliance and audit issues are addressed. If any matters may affect the new entity, ensure matters and mitigating action is documented and ready for transfer to new entity. Include in the due diligence report.

Risk management

  • Develop, document and endorse a risk management policy that provides the new entity’s statement of intent regarding risk management.

Reform costs

  • Continue to monitor and log reform costs.

Regulatory and policy framework

  • Undertake peer review of draft delegations manual.
  • Undertake peer review of a draft policy manual and establish supporting processes and reporting requirements. Include processes in an operating procedures manual.
  • Review draft business unit policies as prepared and identify key integration points across business functions, budget implications and training requirements.

Stage 4 - Implement

Governance

  • Ensure senior leaders (interim General Manager and executive team) are proactively involved, visible and accessible to employees during this period of considerable change.
  • Consider the appropriateness of the existing amalgamation governance framework and goals for future operations, and amend as necessary.

Leading and managing change

  • Continue to engage with staff post commencement of the entity to provide assurance, information and progress against objectives.
  • Formally and informally recognise past achievements and contributions from terminating bodies.
  • Update the change management plan to reflect post-merger environment, risks and actions.

Commencement day

  • Review and revise the Commencement Day plan, managing any emerging risks of barriers.
  • Implement the Commencement Day plan, noting actions that will need to be completed for day 1 of the new council and those which can be implemented over a longer changeover period.

Communications

  • Review and amend communications plans in line with any key learning to date or amendments made to key reform strategies.
  • Escalate internal communications to mitigate workforce confusion or anxiety.
  • In partnership with the workplace reform working group, undertake a further wave of the people and culture survey to monitor workforce engagement and employee morale levels.

Interim organisational structure

  • Continue to implement the interim organisational structure implementation plan.
  • Appoint Interim General Manager. If possible, outgoing staff should conduct induction.

Due diligence

  • Utilise the due diligence report outcomes and recommendations to support the smooth transition to the new entity / adjusted council. Ensure risk, communications, workforce, service provision and key asset and financial matters are managed in accordance with the due diligence recommendations.

Risk management

  • Implement risk management frameworks, processes, procedures, tools and templates to capture and report risk information.
  • Understand, monitor and report on the new entities key risk exposures and appropriateness and effectiveness of existing controls.
  • Implement a staff training package.

Reform costs

  • Continue to monitor and log reform costs.

Regulatory and policy framework

  • Resolve to adopt the Common Seal at the first meeting of the new Council. Print new seal and store in secured area.
  • Implement the compliance and audit framework and new reporting requirements, including confirming new processes with the auditor, preparing education and training packages for end users and socialising the new framework with employees and Council/Administrator.
  • Ensure delegations are communicated and staff trained accordingly, and are reported in accordance with legislative guidelines.