Evaluation of Investments in the Strengthening Management and Governance Programme

2. What Has the SMG Programme Achieved?

2.1 Introduction

This section provides an analysis of the key outcomes that Māori organisations have achieved as a result of their participation in the SMG programme. Following this is a discussion of the extent to which Te Puni Kōkiri’s high level outcomes for the SMG programme have been achieved. The findings are organised under the following headings:

  • Outcomes for Māori organisations; and
  • Outcomes for Te Puni Kōkiri.

This section also reflects on what the evaluators consider to be good governance and management practices as discussed by the SMG organisations.

The analysis draws on responses gathered through key informant interviews and the online survey responses. The responses have been synthesised for analysis and reporting. Quotes sourced from the interviews and survey have been used where they substantiate and illustrate the discussion.

2.2 Outcomes for Māori Organisations

2.2.1 Strengthening the governance function of Māori organisations

The online survey and key informant interviews confirmed that the SMG programme successfully increased the capacity and capability of the organisations’ governance boards. It was also apparent that ongoing work is required in the governance area to address issues such as board member turnover and enhancement of board members’ skills and capabilities.

Assessors reported that most of the organisations they worked with needed assistance with governance issues; therefore they focused much of their effort at that level. Assessors noted that many organisations focused disproportionate amounts of time and energy on operations while governance functions were often neglected. One assessor also commented that a lack of attention to governance matters was not a weakness unique to Māori organisations:

“It’s not just a Māori issue but, nationally, New Zealand organisations are behind the eight ball on governance matters.” (Assessor)

Within the area of governance, assessors and organisations commented that the SMG programme improved organisations’ strategic focus, helped clarify the distinction between governance and management, and increased board confidence and overall performance. The following table provides an analysis of this information.

Table 2: Responses to survey question – Has the SMG programme assisted your organisation to achieve (or to improve) in the following areas?

Table 2: Responses to survey question – Has the SMG programme assisted your organisation to achieve (or to improve) in the following areas?
Governance AreasSignificantlyConsiderablyTo some extentNot at all Don’t know, can’t say
An appropriately structured governance board16%49%23%12% 0%
A high performing governance board9%45%36%9% 0%
A governance board with a clear understanding of its roles, responsibilities and legal obligations19%40%33%9% 0%
A governance board comprising members with relevant skills5%45%45%5% 0%
A governance board with a clear understanding of its stewardship responsibilities14%41% 36%7%2%
A governance board operating with a strategic focus16%49%28%7% 0%

Note: Rounding-off of percentages to whole numbers may result in totals being greater or less than 100%.

Enhanced strategic focus

Assessors noted that organisations were generally passionate about what they did and knew where they wanted to go, but many were operating without clear, documented strategic plans. Strategic plans, if they did exist, were often outdated, and had not been formally adopted or used to provide direction or to measure performance of the organisation. Some organisations were unclear about the value of a strategic plan.

The SMG programme assisted boards to understand their role in setting strategy and clarifying the strategic goals for their organisation.

“SMG sorted out the strategic focus of the organisation, helped with the direction of the organisation and looked at the bigger picture stuff.” (SMG organisation)

The process of setting clear strategy and goals through the SMG programme has enabled boards to gain a better understanding of their environment, prioritise their work programme, and provide direction to the management team to achieve the set goals.

“Our main outcome was the writing of our strategic goals, which were identified as a result of the process. We identified our goals for the next three years… and achieved them in a year’s time!” (SMG organisation)

The survey results confirm that the SMG programme assisted boards to improve their strategic focus, with 65% responding that the SMG programme assisted either significantly or considerably in this area.

Key Findings

The SMG programme assisted boards to understand their role in setting strategy and clarifying the strategic goals for the organisation. Almost two-thirds of organisations considered the SMG programme assisted their boards to improve their strategic focus.

Reflecting on Good Practice

Strategic planning helps organisations to focus their business to ensure all staff work towards a shared common goal. Strategic planning assists organisations to be adaptive to the changing environment. Goal setting needs to occur at all levels of the organisation and should involve staff and board members to ensure buy-in and acceptance.

Clarity of roles

The SMG programme assisted board members to distinguish between their roles and the distinct role of management in an organisation. Key informant interviews revealed that board members gained an improved understanding of the risks of not maintaining clear separation of roles. Most organisations appeared to be aware of the risks such as conflict of interest and inefficient use of board member skill and time; however, the small size of some organisations, limited resources to remunerate board members and the limited pool of expertise in small communities negated the situation and board members performed dual roles in governing and managing organisations.

Moreover, the survey noted that most organisations (91%) found the SMG programme assisted board members to clarify their roles and responsibilities and legal obligations. The SMG programme provided boards with actual strategies and solutions to ensure greater separation of roles. According to some organisations, the clear separation of governance and management and greater understanding of board members’ roles led to better decision making and a more focused board.

“The review highlighted that we did not have any distinction between governance and management. It clearly defined those roles and responsibilities for us.” (SMG organisation)

“SMG clarified the distinction between governance board and management (CEO) roles…” (SMG organisation)

Clarity and a better understanding of the expectations and boundaries of their governance role have helped board members to prioritise strategic issues over operational matters.

“Instead of trustees helping with painting the building, they hire people to do this and the trustees focus their time on strategic thinking, higher level issues.” (SMG organisation)

Key Findings

The SMG programme assisted board members to clarify their roles and responsibilities, including the separation of their governance and management duties.

Reflecting on Good Practice

Board members need to be aware of their role and responsibilities as governors and a clear separation should exist between management and governance. Where separation of roles is not feasible, boundaries and potential conflicts need to be clarified and declared.

Board composition and members’ skill development

The evaluation confirms that the SMG programme assisted board members to develop their governance skills and capabilities. Organisations commented that individuals were often keen to volunteer to join boards, but believed they lacked the necessary skills or experience to contribute effectively to the board. In addition, individuals found the board operations to be foreign and were out of their depth.

Governance training (undertaken as remedial work through the SMG programme) enabled board members to gain skills and knowledge to improve their understanding of their role, allowing them to be more productive and focused at board meetings.

“Prior to SMG, trustees were lay people and were concerned that they didn’t have the skills to make good decisions, meetings were very long, and all of the agenda was not covered and had to be covered in the next meeting. Trustees walked out of the meetings, and were not sure how to run board meetings or how to become a trustee. Now, the meetings are more focused and trustees are more aware of their roles as trustees – looking at the bigger picture stuff.” (SMG organisation)

“Each trustee really evaluated the programme as beneficial to their self-development, in understanding what their role and responsibility as a trustee really was, which has given them confidence to be more proactive at meetings.” (SMG organisation)

“General awareness by board members as to its responsibilities has increased. Clarity about roles has increased through governance training.” (SMG organisation)

Some organisations advised that their boards had to satisfy constitutional requirements for specific hapū or marae representation. This often became an issue when appointed representatives lacked the necessary governance skills or interest in the role. Both assessors and the organisations acknowledged that the practice of representative appointments based on kinship rather than skills posed significant risks for some organisations. These risks were identified through the SMG process and in some cases were carefully managed through ongoing training opportunities.

Another issue that emerged during the evaluation was balancing the importance of tikanga Māori with the need for essential governance skills on a board. For most organisations that commented on this issue, the importance of tikanga was acknowledged and clear boundaries were established to ensure those values were not compromised in the wider operations of organisations.

The survey results and comments from organisations confirmed that organisations paid more attention to recruiting competent and skilled individuals for their governance boards.

“As result of SMG, a non-Māori with vast and global experience was encouraged to become a trustee, and brings good value and a different view from the governance team.” (SMG organisation)

Assessors and organisations commented that remuneration levels for board members often failed to reflect the workload, time commitment or complexity of the board’s operating environment. Assessors commented that remuneration levels for board members needed to reflect market rates in order to attract highly skilled individuals whose time was likely to be in high demand. The SMG programme provided organisations with strategies such as targeting board member recruitment to address these concerns.

In general, assessors found the boards that were operating most effectively were those that had skilled membership and active levels of participation by all board members.

Key Findings

Governance training enabled board members to acquire skills and knowledge that allowed them to be more productive and focused at board meetings.

Reflecting on Good Practice

Board members need to have sufficient skills and experience to be of value to organisations. Organisations need to actively target board members with appropriate skills or, where this is not possible, provide training development opportunities for board members. Remuneration of board members needs to reflect workloads and the operating environment of the organisation.

Board confidence

The Phase 2 remedial component of the SMG programme provided boards with skill development and training in response to identified needs. Governance training enabled board members to gain confidence and self-assurance in their governance abilities. For example, boards more readily analysed risks and were more confident in pursuing new opportunities that they may not have actively pursued before the SMG intervention.

“It [the SMG] provided our fledging trust with the confidence to take on the big boys, because we were just as good and in some cases better.” (SMG organisation)

Key Findings

Training led to an increase in board members’ confidence in their governance abilities. Training provided self-assurance to board members to seek and take up new business opportunities that they would not have pursued before.

Reflecting on Good Practice

Training is critical and needs to be available to board members.

2.2.2 Strengthening the management function of Māori organisations

Overall, the evaluation showed that the SMG programme played a key role in improving organisations’ management processes and systems. The survey results outlined in the table below, and the key informant interviews, showed that the SMG programme identified areas of weakness and provided support and direction to address the shortcomings.

Table 3: Responses to survey question – Has the SMG programme assisted your organisation to achieve (or to improve) in the following areas?

Table 3: Responses to survey question – Has the SMG programme assisted your organisation to achieve (or to improve) in the following areas?
Management AreasSignificantlyConsiderablyTo some extentNot at all Don’t know, can’t say
Human resource management14%50%32%5% 0%
Financial management25%43%20%11%0%
Organisational structure20%41%30%7% 2%
Stakeholder management7%57%25%11%0%
Risk management11%45%34%9% 0%
Planning processes16%61%18%5%0%
Monitoring and evaluation processes7%43%43%7% 0%
Operational policies and procedures23%40%30%7% 0%

Note: Rounding-off of percentages to whole numbers may result in totals being greater or less than 100%

Management structures

The SMG programme assisted some organisations to revise and streamline their management structures to improve lines of accountability and reporting. In addition, the evaluators noted that strong direction and leadership from managers instilled staff and community confidence in organisations. All organisations interviewed were led by charismatic, committed, highly competent and experienced individuals. It was clear that these leaders were the driving forces of their organisations and used their leadership styles to empower and motivate staff.

Assessors identified management succession planning as a significant risk for some organisations. There was a high risk of the organisation failing if a key figure such as the manager or chairperson became unavailable. The SMG programme identified strategies such as the appointment of second tier management support or operations managers to address this issue. As a result, these strategies led to stronger cohesion between management and staff, improved lines of communication, increased staff contact time with managers, and assistance with accelerating the decision-making process.

“It [appointment of an operations manager] had a huge impact on staff… just having someone to talk to… to look after our needs while the boss is away.” (SMG organisation)

“We now have a deputy CEO, which spreads risk, and a restructured management plan.” (SMG organisation)

Other organisations responded by focusing on the development of up-and-coming managers. The restructuring of organisations also allowed them to redirect resources to areas where they could be more effective and allow new staff to be brought on board.

Key Findings

The SMG programme assisted organisations to review and streamline their management structures to ensure lines of accountability and management support were in place.

Reflecting on Good Practice

Organisations were led by charismatic, committed, highly competent and experienced individuals. These leaders were the driving forces of organisations.

Organisational culture

For many of the organisations interviewed, the culture of their organisation was heavily shaped by the constituents they represented. Having a clear mandate with accountability to whānau, hapū and iwi ensured that organisations remained connected with their constituents and their values were reflected in the operations of the organisation. Similarly, constituents were able to understand what the organisation was doing for the community.

Tikanga and kawa were entrenched in most of the organisations and these values flowed through to influence the way in which the organisations operated.

The SMG programme prompted one organisation to strengthen its work environment by improving the organisational culture. The organisation promoted open lines of communication, which resulted in greater awareness and understanding of staff member roles.

“The staff members are now aware of what the other staff members are doing, which has engendered a culture of oneness, a family atmosphere and cohesiveness among staff.” (SMG organisation)

“The staff members are more aware of the work of the management and become more appreciative of the policy development role of management in the organisation, thus creating a common vision to help in the success of the organisation.” (SMG organisation)

Key Findings

A clear mandate with accountability to whānau, hapū and iwi ensured that organisations remained connected with their communities. Tikanga and kawa play an important role in Māori organisations.

Reflecting on Good Practice

Strong organisational culture determines how organisations conduct their business and how staff interact both within and outside of the organisation. Māori cultural values and practices are valued as highly as Western practices in the operations of many organisations.

Systems and processes

Assessors found that the organisations they worked with often lacked operating policies and procedures including financial management, risk management, board management and quality management. In some cases, no formal policies existed or, where they did exist, they lacked sufficient detail or relevance or had not been formally implemented.

“We have used the SMG report to completely review and update our quality management systems, including the development of human resources policies and processes, social work policies, and a training and education manual.” (SMG organisation)

The existence of policies and procedures increased the confidence of organisations when engaging with government agencies.

“Every single funder wants to see your policies and procedures, and I don’t need to look for them because they’re there when government comes in; everything is there for them.” (SMG organisation)

For one organisation, the availability of policies and procedures also empowered staff to be self-managing and less reliant on management.

“Manuals, guidelines and procedures are in place and staff utilise these. Before… the staff members had to go to the CEO to ask about processes and procedures. This has enabled the management to concentrate on the more strategic work.” (SMG organisation)

The SMG programme also highlighted the need for organisations to formalise HR practices, such as documenting job descriptions and professional development plans, and ensuring adequate support is in place for staff.

The survey found that the SMG programme assisted over two-thirds (68%) of organisations to assess and improve their financial processes and systems. This led to improved financial management including monthly board reporting, implementation of financial management software, and oversight of financial practices.

In one case, the SMG programme motivated an organisation to introduce new accounting software. Previously, bookkeeping had been a manual process and reconciliation of the cash book journal was time consuming and often behind schedule. The SMG programme identified the benefits of the accounting software and how it could improve the financial performance of the organisation.

Provision of expert financial advice through the SMG programme also assisted one organisation to make prudent financial decisions about the allocation of resources.

“Early on, there was disagreement on how to use the money coming in from the church and from training contracts; there was good advice from the assessors and also from the accountant on where to spend the money - buying equipment, for example.” (SMG organisation)

Key Findings

Organisations often lacked operating policies and procedures and the SMG programme has assisted in this area. Over two-thirds of organisations considered that the SMG programme assisted organisations to improve their financial processes and systems.

Reflecting on Good Practice

Organisations need sound processes and systems to improve effectiveness and performance. Operational systems and processes must be documented, meaningful to users and readily accessible within organisations.

Risk management

Assessors identified risk management as an area where many organisations required strengthening. It appeared that many were unaware of the importance of risk management or how to undertake and apply it. As a result of the SMG programme, organisations developed a better understanding of risk management and implemented procedures to assist them to assess and develop strategies to manage and mitigate risks. Organisations commented:

“Our participation in the SMG programme has significantly reduced the risks to our trust from loss of funding for programmes and other external risks through the strengthening of our governance processes and operational management.” (SMG organisation)

“Risk management has improved, especially as we are a private establishment with our own funding. We are now more aware of the risks and how to manage them.” (SMG organisation)

Key Findings

The SMG programme assisted organisations to develop a better understanding of risk management and develop strategies to manage and mitigate risks.

Reflecting on Good Practice

Organisations need to embed a risk management framework across their operations.

Staff and skill development

Organisations commented that in order to achieve a certain level of productivity, a particular skill set was required. In isolated locations and where highly specialised skills were required, attracting skilled staff was often difficult.

“It’s very hard for us to get staff to fill some of the roles.” (SMG organisation)

“We are a typical Maori organisation, with board members and staff whose skill levels are not high despite the greatest of intentions - more intensive and even extended training would help.” (SMG organisation)

As a result of the SMG programme, one organisation invested extensively in financial management training for their senior managers to enable them to better interpret and report to the board on key financial areas of the business.

Key Findings

Organisations invested in staff development to ensure they had the capabilities to deliver quality services.

Reflecting on Good Practice

Organisations need to target skill development around the needs of staff and organisations to increase the organisations’ performance and productivity.

2.2.3 The impact of the SMG programme

Overall, the SMG programme was viewed positively by organisations and assessors. The survey results show that organisations rated the SMG programme as having made either a decisive or a worthwhile difference to their organisation.

Figure 2: How would you rate the contribution of the SMG programme to your organisation?

Pie chart showing following results: Little or no difference 2%; A small difference 5%; A worthwhile difference 48%; A decisive difference 45%

Organisations appreciated the professional advice, valuable independent opinion and ability to access experienced assessors.

“The SMG programme enabled the Rūnanga to access a highly skilled consultant, who worked closely with staff and management to develop much needed operational policies and procedures and strengthened the weaknesses that were highlighted.” (SMG organisation)

“The SMG programme gave the organisation the ability to access professional people to strengthen our organisation.” (SMG organisation)

“Having an outside opinion was invaluable.” (SMG organisation)

Assessors and organisations reported that they quickly developed good working relationships with each other, which enabled an environment of trust and openness. The assessors found that organisations were keen to participate in the SMG programme, as they showed willingness to share information and insights, and were receptive to the recommendations made. About two-thirds (67%) of organisations surveyed implemented all or most of the recommendations made by their assessors. Organisations noted that a lack of resources to undertake remedial work and/or a change in organisational priorities were common reasons for not implementing the assessors’ recommendations.

Organisations commented that the SMG programme was timely and enabled their organisation to develop and grow. Assessors’ recommendations often reinforced issues that organisations were already aware of and highlighted areas where they could improve. For some, the assessment provided reassurance that the organisation was tracking well.

“It provided an independent expert overview on key challenges for the organisation and areas that are going well. Basically a reality check.” (SMG organisation)

For another organisation, the SMG programme provided the rationale for closing down operations altogether.

“The report told them they shouldn’t be in that business anymore and they should consider closing down… so they did!” (Te Puni Kōkiri staff member)

The SMG programme provided a level of assurance to Te Puni Kōkiri, and, anecdotally, to other government agencies and funders, that organisations were capable of service delivery. For example, a Te Puni Kōkiri staff member commented that there was a willingness from another government agency to invest in an organisation because they had been through the SMG programme.

“Agencies are confident that the organisation will deliver the outcomes they were set to achieve.” (Te Puni Kōkiri staff member)

All of the assessors who participated in the evaluation viewed the SMG programme as a highly positive intervention that successfully provided targeted assistance to organisations.

“[The SMG programme] enabled us to impart basic governance skills to organisations... and give them the tools to critique themselves.” (Assessor)

You see the lights go on… when you present back the findings.” (Assessor)

“It’s the best thing Te Puni Kōkiri has ever done.” (Assessor)

Key Findings

The SMG programme was viewed positively by organisations and assessors. Organisations valued the professional advice, valuable independent opinion and access to experienced assessors. About two-thirds (67%) of organisations implemented all or most of the recommendations made by their assessors.

Reflecting on Good Practice

The credible reputation of assessors provided confidence and assurance to organisations that a quality service would be delivered. Trusting relationships enable greater engagement and interaction between parties (organisations and assessors).

2.3 Outcomes for Te Puni Kōkiri

The following section discusses the extent to which outcomes three and four of the SMG programme high level outcomes have been achieved.

As stated in section 1.7 Limitations of the evaluation, in the absence of information from other government agencies, the following discussion is based on assessments made by the evaluators. The discussion examines, to the extent possible, the achievement of Outcomes 3 and 4, namely:

  • Outcome 3: To contribute to the growth of strong Māori organisations able to meet organisations’ goals and take advantage of future opportunities; and
  • Outcome 4: To increase stakeholder confidence in the accountability of Māori organisations.

2.3.1 Strong Māori organisations

The evaluation found that organisations strengthened their governance and management capabilities through the SMG programme, as well as through their own efforts, leading to the growth of strong Māori organisations.

“We are in a damned good place after SMG. I could walk out the door knowing that the operational part of the organisation is extremely safe. We have staff who are in a very safe position, operational reviews have started to happen and we have policies and procedures in place. We also took the advice and have a finance committee in place now with membership from the board, treasurer, myself (CEO) and bookkeeper. The SMG process has certainly helped, coupled with a good relationship built with the community.” (SMG organisation)

The SMG programme enabled organisations to critically assess their strengths and weaknesses to gain a better understanding of their organisation and how to achieve organisational goals (through implementing appropriate strategies).

“For the most, the report confirmed weaknesses and strengths our board was already aware of and has steps in place to address. It was, however, very reassuring to know that for the most part the organisation was very much on track.” (SMG organisation)

“The SMG report gave us a full understanding of areas that required improvement. It also gave us some ideas/means of carrying out some of the improvements identified.” (SMG organisation)

At a governance level, the SMG programme provided impetus for organisations to strengthen their strategic focus through setting clear directions, gaining greater awareness and understanding of the governance role, and developing the skills and capabilities of board members.

At a management level, the SMG programme improved organisational processes and systems, culture, and stakeholder relationships, and enabled management and staff to function more effectively and efficiently.

As a result of the SMG programme, one organisation was forward focused in how they engaged with one of their funders. The organisation questioned whether it was in their best interest to take on a new service, particularly when the new service would expose the organisation to new risks and put more pressure on available resources. Previously, the organisation would without hesitation pursue new funding without assessing the consequences for their organisation and/or community.

“We don’t have to look for contracts… we are even the ones who say no because of the capacity issues.” (SMG organisation)

Another organisation demonstrated independence and ownership of their development requirements by subsequently funding – from their own budget – a separate follow-up review. This enabled the organisation to measure performance against the baselines set from the assessment and remediation phases of the SMG programme.

“The SMG programme allowed for a stocktake of our organisation, but more importantly it gave us a baseline to work and measure ourselves from.” (SMG organisation)

Some organisations gained financial stability through securing new contracts for service.

“The organisation is in good financial standing and staff are secure in their employment for a longer period even if there is a change of government.” (SMG organisation)

For others, achieving long-term sustainability required them to diversify their operations and seek new business opportunities, sometimes in new and untested areas of expertise. New business opportunities also led to the creation of strategic partnerships with other providers in their communities.

“Other providers are looking at using the trust as a conduit to open up other NZQA-certified wānanga courses.” (SMG organisation)

“Māori language course development was identified as a strategic focus because of the strength of the relationship of the trust with the community.” (SMG organisation)

For example, one organisation described how the SMG programme helped secure an offshore contract for their trade training programme. The same organisation was also investigating animation technology opportunities and considering developing a technology suite for the community.

2.3.2 Accountable Māori organisations

One of the objectives of the SMG programme was to restore public confidence in Māori organisations at a time when the media was highlighting some high profile failures. Media comment at the time focused on the lack of accountability of Māori organisations and the resulting ineffective delivery of government contracts and services.

The willingness of funders to invest in an organisation is an indicator of confidence and trust. Moreover, the renewal, or signing, of new contracts is an indicator of an organisation’s capability to manage contracts and account for funds. Two organisations had a significant injection of funding9 since their participation in the SMG programme. For one organisation, income from new contracts had increased from $500,000 to over $1.5 million. Another organisation stated:

“Income has grown by $2 million since the [SMG] report.” (SMG organisation)

The implementation of operational policies and procedures and improved financial management practices ensured organisations had accountability controls in place, particularly when approving expenditure. In addition, organisations commented on the heavy monitoring and compliance expectations, such as regular service audits, that other government agencies placed on organisations to ensure transparency and accountability.

The evaluation noted that considerable attention was given to ensuring boards understood their stewardship role and that the accountability of the organisation was ultimately their responsibility.

9 The evaluators noted that the achievement of these financial measures can be attributed to some extent to the organisation’s participation in the SMG programme.