Lists and Jobs

Dear Management Doctor:

You had an email about having lists for planning purposes and I thought you may have those in some file.

I find that cities/counties vary between planners and their individual interpretations of the Dev. Code, GP, etc. Having a standard set of Conditions of Approval and then non-standard items relative to the specific application.

My wife and I enjoyed your Planning Director class. She is now a Council member for the Town of ______ and the SCAG representative for _____ and is involved with ICSC, Cal. League of Cities and other stuff.

Our Economy is totally dead (probably until 2013) and now I have conflicts with my wife being on the Town Council and other entities, so any great insight/advice on jobs would be greatly appreciated for either of us or to be part of your available contract staff.

Thanks again,
Listless and Jobless

Dear Listless,

You actually have three different topics in your email. Here are some thoughts on each one.

  1. Check Lists
    You appear to be responding to my recent article on the importance of using checklists. I don't have a file of these for a good reason. A checklist is something you design for your use and your specific application. You don't need to get bogged down doing these. Just start and refine with use. Here are a few examples:
    1. Travel Checklist
      I travel the country teaching my two day management course. I work these into my normal consulting practice so often pack up for the airport at the last minute. Rather than forget something, I developed the simple checklist below.
    2. Hotel Arrangements
      Along the same line, I expect the teaching room at the hotel to be laid out the way I want it. I developed the checklist and diagram below that I send to the hotel in advance.
    3. Submittal Checklists
      Most planners complain about having incomplete plan submittals. However, some communities use a detailed checklist and will not accept incomplete plans. One of the best I have seen was from Calgary. Below are three sample pages from a 13 page checklist.
    4. Analysis Checklists
      Checklists can be used to help staff in analyzing a project. Below are two pages from a much longer checklist being used in Estes Park to analyze building permits. These kind of checklists help staff do a complete analysis the first plan check rather than continually adding new items each cycle.
  2. Standard Conditions
    Most planning departments create a list of standard conditions that staff can copy as appropriate for various plan approvals. Unfortunately, I could not quickly put my hand on a sample. These can be very useful but often present the following problems:
    1. Generic Conditions
      Staff relies too much on the generic conditions rather than tailoring the conditions for the specific application.
    2. Repeating Ordinance
      Many of the standard conditions simply repeat parts of the ordinance. These can be useful in that they alert applicants to issues that are often missed. However, they tend to clutter up the conditions of approval. If they prove to be useful, these standard conditions could simply be grouped together as one attachment.
    3. Too Many Conditions
      Conditions are often used to cover items that should have been covered earlier or as part of the approval process. Applicants often feel they have an approval, only to determine later that the conditions make the project no longer feasible. The ideal would be to get the plans in shape for approval with as few conditions as possible.
  3. Un-Employed
    This is a tough time to find a job as a planner. Three years ago organizations couldn't find planners. The same is likely to be true three years from now. So, hang in there if you can. Do all those things you have always heard about:
    1. Make lots of contacts.
    2. Don't rely on the resume, personal contacts are better.
    3. Look at Google for ideas.
    4. Look at prior discussions of this topic on my website search engine.
    5. Look at Chapter 35 on my ABZs of Planning Management Second Edition, Unemployment Blues.
    6. Make certain all the planning consulting firms that place contract planners know you are available. There are several large firms in California who would welcome to have you on their list.

Good luck,

The Management Doctor

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