New Planning Director

Dear Management Doctor,

I’ve seen you speak and picked up a copy of your ABZs of Planning Management book at an event in Plano, TX. Maybe I’m missing it, but do you address the new planning director and what approach they should take to department self-assessment, etc. prior to undertaking the processes discussed in your book?

New Director

Dear New Director,

There may be a book or two on the market or the Internet about new managers. I actually addressed this topic twice with a few additional ideas here – quick thoughts:

  1. Lots of listening and get acquainted first.
  2. Don’t talk about what you did in prior jobs.
  3. Depending on the size of the staff, I would meet not only in a group but also one on one.
  4. Do number 1, but don’t wait too long to indicate your direction, maybe 3 or 4 weeks.
  5. Make certain you find out why they hired you and focus first on those issues.
  6. You will need to fit into how the new community works. If allowed, I would meet with each of the elected officials; maybe lunch, find out who they are, hobbies, etc. Learn to know their personal side.
  7. I would do the same for the city manager and other key department heads.
  8. Nose around and find out who the community shakers are; get to know them.
  9. We have done some assessments before new directors which helps us give the bad news rather than the new director.
  10. Remember, you can always email me or call with specific issues.

the Management Doctor

P.S. Also, go to; free advice, and search under subject and N for New Director.

Below are links to a couple of those articles:

Reader Response

Great list! I would also suggest talking with the former planning director – especially if he or she was respected and left the position on good terms. If they want you to succeed they can be terrific mentors and a valuable ongoing source of useful information about the culture and idiosyncrasies of the organization and its people and influential people in the community.

Bruce McClendon