Planning Departments Are Non-Essential
Dear Management Doctor:
I thought you might have some words of wisdom concerning the cutback in budgets for some planning departments taking place around the country. Headlines in Cincinnati, for example, recently declared, "Planning Department is Non-essential."
Dear Tight Belt Planner,
What I have to say on this topic will undoubtedly make many of our readers mad. I believe government always can find the money to fund what they feel is important. I always go back to an old TQM notion about the goal for customer service, which is to:
Meet or exceed
If your department can't get adequate resources, what is your community saying based on the above goal? It is saying that you don't represent enough value that they are willing to pay for. What is the solution? - Increase your value.
The Management Doctor
I think I'd add that not only must we increase our value, we also need to clearly describe our current value. Unfortunately, the value that many ("let's run this thing like a business") newly elected officials see is only at the permits or subdivision counter. We have to help them understand that behind the scenes, we planners play a large role creating the environment where a citizen even wants to pull a permit or commence a subdivision.
I remember you helped my old friends in Kentucky have the confidence to tell the polititians what they were worth and the joint commission's budget was nearly doubled.
I agree with the Management Doctor and I am trying to increase the value of my department in the eyes of the political directorate. We have made a number of strides, but still have some distance to go. However, when there is action to reduce staff in some agencies, I asked for and was granted approval to increase my staff by three (9%).
Therefore, Mr. Tight Belt, if you can make your community feel that they really need your department you would be surprised how much more support you would get from your boss(es).
I certainly would not pay for services that had no value or value beyond my expectations. Therefore, everyday contains a marketing opportunity (or challenge) to convince the elected official and the public that we are a critical part of the service package. On certain days it is time consuming and frustrating, but consider the alternative.
J. Wayne Oldroyd