Only an Indicator!

Our post today responds to a comment by Ben Lawson  that the “Fit for the Future” program is leading councils to equate depreciation and renewal spending regardless of the age or need of their assets.

This issue came to the attention of one of our State Auditors-General who dismissed it, saying ‘I agree that a ratio of renewal: depreciation is too simplistic and that there are real risks to be managed, but ‘it is only an indicator’ ‘  He also suggested that since ‘bureaucrats avoid things that are too complex’, it was necessary for indicators to be as simple as possible.

It is not difficult to see how dangerous this approach is when you consider that an aircraft instrument panel is simply a set of indicators. But without many hours of flying instruction (and thus an understanding of what lies behind each of the indicators) would you expect to be able to correctly interpret the information provided by these indicators – and keep the plane from crashing?

Perhaps we can make it easier for you as the pilot if  we simplify the indicators!   What if were to just keep the altimeter, for example, or the speedometer?  Perhaps just the fuel gauge? Maybe we could do without the compass, or the airspeed indicator, or the directional gyro?   And is the turn indicator really necessary?  What about the vertical speed indicator?

Well, you don’t have to be a trained pilot to figure out that actually you DO need all the instruments on the panel – ALL the indicators, and enough understanding to be able to correctly interpret them in any particular circumstance.    Moreover, this is just for a simple two seater Cessna, not even a Boeing 707, and just for just one aircraft – not a fleet of aircraft.

Now consider that even a fleet of aircraft would present far less decision points than the far greater variety of assets and asset questions facing the average council. Can the task of managing an ever changing and wide range of public sector assets with all their attendant services and disparate user groups, possibly be managed by a few simple indicators?

Worse, can they be managed by a few rules that are applied blindly without understanding?

One Thought on “Only an Indicator!

  1. Per my comment in

    If metrics are available and applicable they should be used. If they are not applicable then they should inform decision making, not guide decisions.

    Our problem is decision making without understanding.

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