Dear Management Doctor:
What would be your pick for the top ten communities (cities or counties) who have, in your opinion, the most progressive organizational structures for servicing their communities?
There is no good answer to your question, so I will say it depends. I spend quite a bit of time on this question in my management class. Here are some of my thoughts:
I would encourage our readers to tell us why the organizational pattern they have in their community should make your top ten. Maybe even more instructive, why it shouldn't
The Management Doctor
This is a response to Hank Epstein’s question about the best organizational structure. I am not going to nominate Williston as one of the “Top 10.” We are so small that structure is simple (daytime population = ~20,000, nightime population = ~8,300). But I do want to emphasize your statement that a small planning department should take on every function it can logically get.
Building is a state function in Vermont (or we’d have that, too), but our department enjoys great political credibility and support because we are not just regulators. Besides current and long range planning, we manage a watershed health program (stream corridor restoration, stormwater planning), the town’s primitive trails, and the open space acquisition program, including management. This is a big slate, even in a small town, but people see the planning department as making tangible contributions to the quality of life. It is a lot different to meet the planners in the context of volunteer riparian planting or trail maintenance projects than across the counter. Also, news coverage of our staff planting trees is far superior to having us show up only in stories about controversial developments. My next step here is to begin working with local nonprofits on housing projects. We need to be perceived as community-builders, not paper-pushers!
This also leads to another of your points. On Williston’s organizational chart, planning and public works appear completely separate. But in reality, we are about 40 feet apart and talk to each other virtually every day. We share CO and stormwater inspections and help each other out in budgeting (watershed health and our GIS function are both supported from both budgets, for example). Years ago, I consulted with a much larger city (ca 50,000) where this close, but informal, connection between planning and public works was equally effective.
Lee Nellis, AICP
Thank you for this succinct overview of the current state of organizational structures.