Organizational Alternatives

Dear Management Doctor:

Has there been any trends toward combining planning and building functions (some cities call them development services departments)? I'm looking for any research or management ideas along these lines. We have had a successful experience in Nashua with the combined departments called planning & building, but some feel we should go back to the separate departments.

Thanks.

Roger

Dear Roger:

We've seen combined departments work well and combined departments not work well. We've also seen separate departments work will and separate departments not work well. The customer doesn't care about the department issues but only knows they need to work with the city and often the right and left hand do not work together. We normally favor merging planning and building and that is certainly the norm in California as well as many other states. Increasingly, we also see a third model which is merging the engineering function along with the other two. Normally, but not always, the merged department is headed by a planner. My message for the planners is that they need to learn more about the building function and then work to truly integrate functions for the benefit of the customer. It's not unusual that the Planner Director tends to ignore the building function. Some of our merged client departments in California include Palo Alto, San Jose, Redwood City, Culver City, Santa Clara, Santa Monica, Visalia, Sonoma County. Also Scottsdale, Arizona; Overland Park, Kansas; Boulder County, Colorado, and Clackamas County, Oregon.

The Management Doctor

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