Deliver The Goods

Dear Management Doctor:

I like the piece from John Kotter, especially this line with which I totally agree: "Communities are desperate for the kind of leadership planning can provide. But we also need to deliver the goods."

There's a new "Ober Manager" in town, call him a city chief administrator if you wish, who hails from a long and successful career in private industry. This is his first assignment in local government and he's bringing some innovative cost saving and purchasing ideas to the front and is forcing long delayed decisions and action from departments as well as elected officials. He's also pushing for measurable implementation strategies as a part of a new comprehensive plan that was funded and which began before his tenure commenced here. He's impatient about all this "planning stuff" and wants to see outcomes right away. He's saying, as Kotter says, "...we also need to deliver the goods."

Our comprehensive plan is long range and plows new ground in growth management and "smart growth" initiatives. The community, as measured by independently conducted scientific opinion surveys, is behind the plan and its goals. That in itself is a remarkable achievement. It's not, however, possible to predict with certainty when and to what degree of completeness the cooperating entities covered by the comprehensive plan will amend their M.O. to allow full implementation of the plan.

Within our planning department, I think we have successfully achieved, as Kotter puts it, "...the merging of management and leadership... having the ability to develop and articulate a vision, plan the appropriate strategy and inspire others to follow." The problem is our "Jack Welch protégé" of a new administrator maybe did not get around to reading John Kotter's book and remains one heck of a manager who, from this planner's perspective at least, is short on long-range vision, looking for short-term efficiencies and measurements instead.

Here's the question, finally. Any advice on how we can better describe how planners and comprehensive, long-range planning does "deliver the goods" in terms that our new manager can comprehend?


Dear Anonymous,

This is a great question. I have a number of thoughts as follows:

  1. First of all, recognize that the new manager is one of your customers, although not your only customer. You may need to satisfy his needs (even if short term) in order to get his support for what you feel is important (long term).
  2. Work with all your other customers to build support for the long term (constituency building). Who are these people?
    • Obviously the elected officials
    • Special interest groups
    • Citizen organizations and neighborhood groups
  3. All of these people can be used to influence that reluctant manager. Keep in mind that everyone has a boss of some kind to answer to.
  4. Take a good look at the plan and brainstorm which of the items can lend themselves to short-term measurement.
  5. Read a variety of Harvard Business Review articles that may point out that even private businesses can get off the track with total focus on the short term.
  6. Keep in mind that you are not really interested in long-range planning. What you are interested in is impacting decisions being made today from a long-term perspective.
    I hope this helps.

The Management Doctor