Challenging The Status Quo Takes Courage: BENN



Often the impediments to change involve ego and courage. Not just at Ottawa City Hall.

Staff and management are too sensitive. They cannot accept that an outsider (the consultant) is capable of having a better understanding of the situation. Specific to city hall, far too many of the insiders believe that they are the smartest person in the room. It is axiomatic that for everyone who thinks they are the smartest person in the room, save one, is wrong. Ego.

Courage comes from deciding to challenge the status quo. Once the dust settled on the early 2000s financial meltdown (see Enron), the improvement of the quality of the boards of directors was dramatic. Many boards are now prepared to challenge management, especially when the business is going sideways. Almost absolutely when the business is in a tail spin.

When it comes to city hall, no one on council in the last several terms has shown the courage to challenge staff. Challenge them for incomplete reports. Challenge them for leading council by the nose to the staff recommendation. Challenge staff for not thinking outside the box. Challenge staff for not being open to outside input. Instead, council cowers in fear of being perceived to be not supportive of staff. Of being perceived as challenging staff to do better. All of which is a clear demonstration of a lack of understanding of their role. Oversight of staff.

In short, I expect that the reaction from city hall to my column today will be to hunker down. To ignore the input. Staff will dismiss it, much the way one VP finance reacted to our recommendations some four decades ago. Words to the effect of “You took my watch and told me what time it was.” His assessment wasn’t incorrect. It was just incomplete. We needed to tell him what time it was because he failed to pay attention to his own watch.

Ron Benn, a finance executive, has been a member of the Centrepointe Community Association for the better part of three decades.


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2 Responses

  1. Peter Karwacki says:

    I dèscribed this as “asking tough questions”

    Benn is right.

    But this is now group think and in groups truth seekers are despised.

    As Jeff Bezos admonished, “humans do not like truth seekers, rather they prefer, as social animals, those that go along to get along”

  2. Ron Benn says:

    Peter, this version of council has had 16+ months to effect change. To date … nothing. That sums it up.

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