Hot Management Info for 2003

December – Permits Systems – The Dilemma

November – Incomplete Applications

October – Put Your Resolution Where Your Mouth Is

September – Be Careful With Your Values

August – Multiple Permits – Multiple Jurisdictions

July – Workplace Of The Future

June – Turnover

May – Getting Your Department From Good To Great

April – What Are You Reading?

March – Wisdom Of Jack Welch

January – Productivity And Pride

December 2003 – Permit Systems – The Dilemma

Do you ever wonder why your expensive new permit system
did not pay off as much as expected?

A high percent of cities and counties now have computerized
automated permit systems. Yet in our experience, most find their system
a frustration. There are currently two dozen or more permit systems
on the market. Each one has some positive as well as negative features.
We have yet to find one that does everything we think it should do.
However, the problem is much more than software. Problems include:

  • Managers assume that the system will solve problems that it is not
    designed to solve.
  • The vendor may give inadequate support.
  • Inadequate staff resources are devoted to installation and design.
  • The IT department gives the system low priority or inadequate support.
  • There is inadequate staff training.
  • Only some departments or divisions agree to use the system.
  • No one adequately controls the input so the system isn’t reliable.
  • Some staff simply refuse to use the system.
  • Only part of the system is purchased.
  • The system is not programmed or used to supply management information.

We recently purchased a new book, Key Management Models,
Prentice Hall, 2003. A chapter in this book discusses the stage of development
of maturity of an organization for software development. Check your
system against these stages.

  1. Initial. The development process is characterized as ad hoc,
    occasionally chaotic. Few processes are defined, and success depends
    on individual efforts.
  2. Repeatable. Basic project management processes are established
    to track cost, schedule, and functionality. The necessary process
    discipline is in place to repeat earlier successes on projects with
    similar applications.
  3. Defined. The software process for both management and engineering
    activities is documented, standardized and integrated into a standard
    software process for the organization. All projects use an approved
    tailored version of the organization’s standard software process for
    developing and maintaining software.
  4. Managed. Detailed measures of the software process and product
    quality are collected. Both the software process and products are
    quantitatively understood and controlled.
  5. Optimizing. Continuous process improvement is enabled by
    quantitative feedback from the process and from piloting innovative
    ideas and technologies.

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November 2003 – Incomplete Applications

Planners, engineers and building staff continually complain
that the reason they can’t meet reasonable timelines for plan review
is the poor quality of applications they receive. We have heard this
complaint from virtually every one of the some 150 cities and counties
we have worked with. There are a variety of ways to address this issue

  • Industry Training Some communities routinely have training
    sessions for industry representatives to discuss submittal requirements.
    Occasionally, it is the same company or firm that repeatedly turns
    in poor applications. In these cases, we recommend that county department
    heads meet privately with the president of the firm to talk about
    needed improvements.
  • Pre-Application Meetings Optional pre-application meetings
    should be available for all permits. For complex permits, mandatory
    pre-application meetings should be considered.
  • Submittal Requirements The use of submittal requirements
    is a complex topic that is practiced in a variety of ways. In all
    cases, the function should have a very clear list of submittal requirements.
    Some communities will not take in an application until all submittal
    requirements are met. This obviously solves at least part of the concern
    for poor submittals. On the other hand, other communities feel that
    this is not friendly customer service. We fall somewhere in-between.
    We normally feel that all submittal-required items should be in place
    at time of submittal. However, if one or two items are missing and
    they could be submitted in the next day or two, we suggest the submittal
    be accepted with the understanding that the missing items will be
  • Intake versus Drop Off For complex submittals, some communities
    require a submittal appointment where an intake person checks through
    the submittal. We agree with this procedure for complex submittals.
    Other communities allow submittals to be dropped off, mailed in, or
    submitted via the Internet. In these later cases there should be a
    submittal review conducted in a day or two after receipt with the
    applicant notified that the application has been received and is complete
    for processing.
  • 30-Day Rule for Completeness A number of states, including
    California and Oregon, have a state-mandated rule for applicant completeness.
    Under this system the government body receiving the application must
    declare the application complete within 30 days. If it is not complete,
    they must list what would be needed to make it complete. We tend not
    to like these systems. We find that it allows staff to continually
    stretch out the timelines and there is often confusion regarding the
    meaning of the word “complete.”
  • Detailed Engineering or Architectural Requirements In development,
    there is a natural sequence of events as related to when detailed
    engineering or architectural drawings are needed. Normally, the applicant
    wants to know they can proceed prior to completing these details.
    Staff and Planning Commissions often want to see more details than
    they should need to make a decision to proceed. If too much detail
    is asked at the wrong time in the process, it encourages applicants
    to make partial submittals and creates extra cost when changes are
  • Timelines – Playing the Game If timelines are too long or
    if there is a long wait to get in queue, it encourages applicants
    to make incomplete submittals simply to get a place in line. If timelines
    are reasonable, there is no longer a reason for applicants to play
    this game.

Additionally, some applicant professionals will play other games with
their clients. They make incomplete submittals and then tell their client
that it is the government that is holding them up. A good way to get
around this problem is to copy the client on all correspondence given
to the professional.

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October 2003 – Put Your Resolution Where Your Mouth Is

We recently completed a study of Fort Collins Development Review Process.
As part of that work, we discovered underlying community concerns related
to growth or no growth issues. We suggested the City clarify its policy
stand as related to the development process, which they did by adopting
the following resolution:

Of The Council Of The City Of Fort Collins
Stating The Intent Of The City To Conduct
Its Development Review Process In A
Politically Neutral Manner As To Growth

WHEREAS, the City’s
land development policies have been established and set out through
the City’s comprehensive plan, and particularly “City Plan;” and

WHEREAS, The City’s
land development policies, and growth policies, as contained in the
City’s comprehensive plan are implemented through the City’s Land Use
Code; and

WHEREAS, the City
has recently engaged the services of Zucker Systems to prepare a report
entitled “Quality Improvement Plans for Development Review Process,”
which report has suggested that the City’s development review process
should be clear and reasonably predictable and should be “policy neutral”
such that the process is not used to either speed up or slow down development
depending upon attitudes about growth; and

WHEREAS, by this
resolution, the Council desires to clarify its intentions and eliminate
any perception that the development review process is used as a tool
to either promote, prohibit or inhibit growth.

intention of the City to conduct its development review process in a
manner which is “policy neutral” as to the promotions, prohibition or
inhibition of growth.

Passed and adopted
at a regular meeting of the City Council held this 7th day of October,
A.D. 2003

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September 2003 – Performance Standards for Development Review

Good permitting and development systems operate best with good performance
standards. While we see that many cities and counties have adopted performance
standards, they generally measure only part of the process. The standards
normally state that the department or division will respond within “x”
working days to any submittal. The use of working days rather than calendar
days is a good approach as it indicates response time. However, the
systems being used often have a number of potentially fatal flaws as

  • Monitoring of Timelines—The timelines exist, but often
    there is no comprehensive way to monitor the timelines or alert management
    if timelines are not being met.
  • City or County Time vs. Applicant Time—The applicant
    is concerned about the time from submittal to approval. However, the
    city or county is in control of only part of this time. The applicant
    is responsible for how long it takes to respond to the city or county
    requirements. Often the systems do not monitor or separate out applicant
    vs. city or county time.
  • Applicant Time—Even though the city or county cannot
    be responsible for applicant time, they do have a responsibility to
    help reduce applicant time. This relates to things like the clarity
    of submittal requirements, training of the private professionals who
    are active in the community, adequacy of city or county response to
    submittals, and assisting the applicant with obtaining outside agency
  • Completeness of Reviews—Applicants often say that government
    does meet their review times but that the reviews are incomplete.
    New items are added in second or third reviews that should have been
    caught in first reviews. Generally, there is no process to examine
    or monitor the completeness of first reviews.
  • Timelines for Second, Third or Fourth Reviews—Most functions
    that set timelines use the same timeline for second, third or fourth
    reviews. They also review items in the order received. In other words,
    a second or third review still goes to the bottom of the pile. Good
    review systems should cut the review times in half for each subsequent
  • Triaging Permits—There is a tendency in many communities
    to put all permits in the same pile. A better system triages permits
    so permits that can be handled in one or five days do not go in the
    same pile as permits that require 15 days.

In summary, features of a good performance system should

  • The automated permit system should be programmed to:
    1. Monitor and report weekly or monthly on how well performance
      standards are being met.
    2. Track city or county time and applicant time as two separate
  • Each function should review its experience with applicant time and
    develop assistance to help applicants reduce their times.
  • Each function should establish a goal of comprehensively complete
    first time reviews.
  • Each function should develop a quality control monitoring program
    to monitor performance on first time reviews. Ten to 25% of the permits
    should be randomly monitored for this purpose and applicants should
    be encouraged to provide feedback to function managers.
  • As a guideline, the time for each subsequent review should be set
    at half of the prior review time.
  • Permits should be triaged, i.e., simple permits should follow a
    different track and priority from more complex permits.

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August 2003 – Knowing Right From Wrong

I could have titled this article “Ethics” but then I knew that many
of you would not have read it. As planners, we do have the AICP code
of ethics that gives us some advice, but I thought it would be helpful
to share some of the new private sector ideas. The comments below are
taken from two new books reviewed in the American Management Association,
Summer 2003 edition. The books are A Business Tale, by Marianne
Jennings and Absolute Honesty, by Larry Johnson and Bob Phillips.
Ideas include:

  1. Setbacks
    Sometimes we do suffer setbacks because we do what’s honest and
    right. Sometimes those who are less than honest even pull ahead of
    us in our quest for success. We build our reputations over time. The
    little ethical shortcuts that we take often come back to haunt us
    while the ethical choices we make come back to help us.
  2. Ethics is Hard
    Doing what’s right and what’s honest is a much more difficult path
    in the short term. But, integrity can be the building blocks to our
    long- term reputation and success.
  3. Like Water
    Ethics is like water — it starts at the top and flows down.
  4. Tell the Truth
    Your ability to lead others depends on their trusting you.
  5. Tackle the Problem
    Learn to confront tough issues in a healthy and straightforward manner.
  6. Disagree and Commit
    Everyone in the organization needs to express his or her opinions
    openly and clearly. However, once everyone has reached consensus on
    a particular decision, all are expected to commit to the decision.
  7. Welcome the Truth
    A culture of honesty depends on being able to criticize and accept
    criticism in an open, healthy and nondestructive way.
  8. Reward the Messenger
    If managers punish people for expressing their opinions, those opinions
    will simply go underground.

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July 2003 – Derailed Managers

Summarized from June 2003 Training Magazine

Promising managers may get derailed and cost the organization
lost time and wasted talent. The manager’s boss should look for the
signs and take corrective action. This is also a good self-help checklist
for all managers, particularly planners, who aspire to the next level.

  1. APPROVAL DEPENDENT. Seek and need praise or reassurance from
    others, particularly from people higher in the organization.
  2. ARGUMENTATIVE (DISTRUSTFUL). Skeptical, tense, perhaps paranoid
    or suspicious, focused on protecting their own interests and likely
    to resist coaching and feedback.
  3. ARROGANT. Overly self-assured or confident resulting in poor
    listening skills and dismissal of feedback from others.
  4. ATTENTION-SEEKING. Gregarious, charming and persuasive—perhaps
    escessively so—which can result in melodrama and self-promotion.
  5. DISTANT. While seemingly pleasant and cooperative, tend to
    be preoccupied with their own agendas and may prefer to address issues
    covertly (avoiding more direct solutions), thus being perceived as
    a procrastinator, manipulator or stubborn.
  6. ECCENTRIC. Creative and different from others, perhaps to
    the point of being unorthodox or odd.
  7. IMPERCEPTIVE (ALOOF). Not naturally inclined to read others’
    behavior, intent and motivations.
  8. IMPULSIVE. Impatient, unpredictable and inclined to act before
    considering the consequences of actions.
  9. PERFECTIONIST. Micromanaging, controlling and demanding of
  10. RISK AVERSE (CAUTIOUS). Indecisive, too deliberate or reluctant
    to take unusual or unconventional actions due to overemphasis of the
    prospect of failure.
  11. VOLATILE. Have difficulty controlling emotions, moody and
    quick to erupt in anger.

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June 2003 – The Influentials

The Influentials
From The Influentials*

One American in Ten Tells the Other Nine How to Vote,
Where to Eat, and What to Buy — And How Good or Bad the Planning Department

What are they? They are the most influential Americans
— the ones who tell their neighbors what to buy, which politician to
support and where to vacation. They aren’t necessarily who you expect.
They aren’t the richest 10% or the best educated 10%. They aren’t the
early adopters who are always the first to try everything. They are,
however, the 10% of Americans most engaged in their communities — where
they wield a huge amount of influence. They’re the campaigners for open-space
initiatives and friends of the public library. They’re the Influentials.
Together they are the best marketing tool around — using word of mouth
to create spirals of influence. With word of mouth increasingly important,
they’ve never been more powerful than now. Today, a fragmented market
has made it possible for Influentials to opt-out of mass-message advertising,
which means that you must take a different route to reach them.

Who are they? They tend to be well educated — the
vast majority have attended college and 20% have done graduate work.
Most are employed full or parttime, are married, have children and own
homes, median age is 45 and median income is $55,000. They’re technologically
literate and politically centrists.

How to reach them?

  • Be Where the Information Is. Offer them good, high-quality
    information. Don’t exaggerate. Be where they are.
  • When Critics Come Knocking, Invite Them In. When Influentials
    have a problem with a service, they do something about it.
  • Get Out Into the Community. Become active.
  • Make it Easier and Then Make it Easier Still. Make life easier
    for the Influentials.
  • Know the “Exceptions” and Keep Up With Them. They are utilitarians
    in many areas but make exceptions in homes, automobiles, travel and
    personal health.
  • Be a Brand and Tell the World. They believe a particular
    brand is worth paying for.

What Does This Mean For You? While this research
was private sector, I believe it has something to say for planning and
planners. APA has been talking about “branding” for planning. I’ve been
talking about constituency building for planning. Many of our readers
complain about the lack of respect in their communities for planning.
I believe that all planners need to develop a political profile of their
community. This should include finding out who the Influentials are
and how to use them for better planning. What do you think?

*The Influentials, by Ed Keller and Jon
Berry, The Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster Inc., 2003

Reader Response

A great article to share with planners! Bruce McClendon’s concept of
a brand for APA was harshly criticized in some circles because some
thought it was a waste of time and others were concerned about the “commercialization”
of planning. Yet, his concept of having an identity for APA is the very
problem that APA and AICP continue to experience. Planners are too often
seen as obstructionists (if one works in the public sector) or opportunists
(if one works in the private sector). What happened to the concept of
professionalism? We are constantly shown by the press that doctors can
make huge life-ending mistakes and lawyers substantial wealth-eliminating
errors when serving their customers, but we still use them when the
need for their services occur. Planners need to have the same image
of being seen as professionals serving the public to make better and
more livable communities. The steps identified in the article were excellent
guides and one that we must be taking to heart if we’re going to get
any respect for the efforts to which most of us have devoted our entire

Mike Harper
Washoe County, NV

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May 2003 – Listening

Once you learn how to listen, your managerial skills will
improve dramatically. You’ll get better feedback, communicate better,
and solve more problems. Here are some exercises that will improve your
listening skills, and help you get the most out of each meeting.

  • Clean off your desk. If there are loose papers on your desk,
    you’ll unconsciously start to fiddle with them—and may even start
    to glance over them. Clear your desk for every conversation, so you
    can focus your attention on what they’re saying.
  • What is the color of the person’s eyes? Train yourself to
    notice eye color at the start of every conversation. It ensures that
    you’ll make significant eye contact—which leads to more productive
    conversations. Important: Don’t focus so much on eye color
    that you don’t listen to what is being said.
  • Train yourself to ask questions instead of making statements.
    Example: Don’t say, “Joan, don’t forget that the Anderson report
    needs to be in on Monday morning.” Rather, say, “How is the Anderson
    report coming along, Joan? Any problems with making the deadline?”
    By asking questions you’ll start a dialogue, and you never know what
    you might learn.
  • Learn to “lubricate” conversations. Phrases such as “Yes,
    I see” and “I understand” do two things: 1) They show that you’re
    listening, and encourage the other person to keep talking; and 2)
    They keep your attention focused.
  • Don’t blurt out questions as soon as the person is finished
    It looks as if you were formulating your reply rather
    than listening. Before you ask a question, paraphrase the person’s
    words. Example: “So what you’re saying is….” Then, ask your
    question: “Well, let me ask you this….” This cuts down on miscommunication.
  • Don’t smile the whole time. A lot of managers do this because
    they think it sends a friendly message. It can, but people also often
    mistake it for mental absence, or a sign that you’re not taking them
    seriously. Save smiles for humorous remarks.

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April 2003 – Think Before Promoting

From Harvard Business Review, December 2002

He’s a rising star. He’s also arrogant and unseasoned. Denying
him that promotion might be the best thing you could do for his career
– and your company.

It’s not unusual for a star performer to be promoted into
higher management before he’s ready. Yes, he may be exceptionally smart
and talented, but he may also lack essential people skills. Rather than
denying him the promotion altogether, his boss might do well to delay
it – and use that time to help develop the candidate’s emotional competencies.
Here’s how.

Deepen 360-Degree Feedback. Go beyond the usual
set of questionnaires that make up the traditional 360-degree-feedback
process. Interview a wide variety of the manager’s peers and subordinates
and let him read verbatim responses to open-ended performance questions.

Interrupt the Ascent. Help the inexperienced manager
get beyond a command-and-control mentality by pushing him to develop
his negotiation and persuasion skills. Instead of promoting him, give
him cross-functional assignments where he can’t rely on rank to influence

Act On Your Commitment. Don’t give the inexperienced
manager the impression that emotional competencies are optional. Hold
him accountable for his interpersonal skills, in some cases taking a
tough stance by demoting him or denying him a promotion, but with the
promise that changed behaviors will ultimately be rewarded.

Institutionalize Personal Development. Weave interpersonal
goals into the fabric of the organization and make emotional competence
a performance measure. Also, work to institute formal development programs
that teach leadership skills and facilitate self-awareness, reflection,
and opportunities to practice new emotional competencies.

Cultivate Informal Networks. Encourage the manager
to develop informal learning partnerships with peers and mentors in
order to expose him to different leadership styles and perspectives.
This will provide him with honest and ongoing feedback and continual
opportunities to learn.

Reader Response

Could you please give me a quick definition of what “emotional competence”
means as it relates to this article?

The Management Doctor suggests
it relates to a person’s essential people skills. How does the person
relate to his or her peers, subordinates and boss? Is the person still
of the “I’m the boss” mentality or does this person understand contemporary
management relies more on teamwork and coordination rather than authority.
Good interpersonal skills are not just nice in a manager but are essential.

I hope this helps,

The Management Doctor

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March 2003 – Reading Circle

From December 2002 Training.

Do employees learn best when they teach themselves? When
American Re-Insurance Co. (Am-Re) established its corporate university,
Thom Smith wanted to find out. So he started a companywide employee
book club.

“It’s a simple approach, the cost of entry is low, the
time commitment is low, yet the relevance to business can be extremely
high,” says Smith, the president of American Re-Insurance University
(ARU). While most book clubs are pouring over a New York Times bestseller,
the ARU book club is reading Built to Last (HarperBusiness 2002), The
Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (Simon & Schuster, 1990) and
Who Moved My Cheese? (Putnam Publishing Group, 1998).

Every few months Smith announces what the club will read
next with a companywide e-mail. Once interested employees have registered
online, he buys the books, distributes them, and assigns employees to
a book discussion group. Smith tries to avoid having people from the
same division in the same group. After everyone has read the book, participants
meet over their lunch hour to discuss what they have read. Each group
has a volunteer leader, who guides the discussion with a series of questions
Smith provides.

“We’re trying to get employees to think more broadly about
the business, but we’re also getting presidents in the same room with
file clerks and support staff,” says Smith. “It’s a great mix and a
safe environment for every employee to offer their opinions and ideas.”

Smith’s goal is that employees understand what they read
and how to apply it to Am-Re’s operations. To encourage that, Smith
chooses books that are relevant to the company’s current situation.

For example, while Am-Re was in the midst of a reorganization
last March, the book club read The Employee Handbook for Organizational
Change (Pritchett Publishing Co., 1990). During group meetings, Smith’s
questions encouraged participants to discuss how the handbook applied
to their experiences during the reorganization. “Any feedback that suggests
improvement or an opportunity to do something different gets forwarded
to the right department,” says Smith.

Participation remains strong since the book club’s inception
in March 2001. About 10 percent of Am-Re’s workforce participates each
time a new book is announced, but it’s not the same 10 percent each
time. The only expense is $10,000 a year for books. “Compared to other
learning expenditures, that’s very reasonable,” Smith says. “To touch
that many people with that little money is a good outcome for us.”

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February 2003 – Motivation

A recent letter to the Management Doctor asked: “What in an organizational
life can de-motivate people?” This arrived at the same time that I was
reading the January 2003 issue of the Harvard Business Review that includes
50 pages on the topic of motivation. This also provided the opportunity
for me to once again suggest that most of you managers out there are
not reading enough management material and that you should put the Harvard
Business Review high on your list.

The January issue is particularly interesting because
the four articles on motivation were all published before and the magazine
concluded that they were worthy of being re-published. My favorite was,
One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees? by Frederick Herzberg,
originally published in 1968. I continue to use this excellent research
in my teaching motivation.

Herzberg tries to clear up the confusion between motivators
(extreme satisfaction) and de-motivators (extreme dissatisfaction).
His research was based on 12 investigations covering roughly 1,800 events.
I believe the general results today are as good as they were in 1968,
although some of the percentages might change slightly in a current
survey. Based on my other research, I would speculate that Company Policy
and Supervision would score even higher as a de-motivator. On the motivation
side, control over one’s job and empowerment concepts would score very
high. The numbers below are my estimates based on Herzberg’s published
chart. As can be seen, each factor can be a de-motivator or a motivator
depending on the person.

Work Itself
Company Policy & Administration
Relationship with Supervisor
Work Conditions
Relationship with Peers

Reader Response

Just a reality-check comment on the chart: it would appear that ‘salary’
and ‘security’ are under-rated. All the planners I have talked to in
a 20-year career have rated both pretty high on their list of desirables.

Of course other workplace factors, job independence and satisfaction
are important, but without an adequate salary and job security, everything
else is a luxury.


Hiller West
City of Monroe, WA

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January 2003 – The Boss Is Late For Meetings

In a number of our recent employee surveys, as part of
our organizational studies, a common complaint has been made. The boss
is often late to meetings he or she has called or cancels the meeting
at the last minute, sometimes even after the group has already assembled
and is waiting.

Much to my delight, the November 26, 2002 USA Today
ran an article called, I’m late, I’m late, I’m late. A few items
of interest:

  • At one company, anyone who comes late to a meeting has to buy lunch.
  • Tardiness is a chronic problem among chief executive officers. They
    arrive late for six in ten meetings.
  • Workers wasting time sitting around the table can result in thousands
    of dollars per hour.
  • Chronic tardiness, no matter how innocent, can so gum up the gears
    of a corporate work ethic, create resentment and hurt a reputation
    that experts address the topic as if it were a mental disorder.
  • At a high-tech company, employees have taken to locking the door
    two minutes after the start time. They still open the door, but they
    seem to take a measure of enjoyment in making the boss knock.
  • Workers at another company have pretended to be laughing long and
    hard at a joke when the CEO walks in, hoping he will feel he missed
  • One executive says he tries to get to meetings a bit early to see
    what the mood of the team is and have an opportunity to interact informally
    before they get down to serious business.
  • Many executives are “adrenaline-addicted” and hope their phone rings
    when they are about to leave. Fighting a fire is more fun than attending
    a meeting.
  • Seven golden rules of leadership say: “Rule No. 1 — Everyone’s time
    is valuable.”

So, Planning Directors and other bosses, don’t be late!
And, have a happy New Year.