Time, and what we do with it, has been a topic for poets and singer song-writers to muse about for generations. The Rolling Stones said time was on their side — of course that was easy to say when they were 21, I wonder if they still feel that way in their late 60’s?
I’m not sure that I ever felt that time was on my side, but these days I’m definitely feeling the Hootie and Blowfish vibe — time, why you always punish me?
Seriously, time has turned out to be a cruel cosmic joke. And yeah, I know that Einstein and Stephen Hawking have mathematical equations that demonstrate that time is not an absolute. That’s great and when I learn how to travel at the speed of light I’m sure I’ll feel good about that, but until then my time feels awfully absolute and getting shorter by the day.
Before you chalk this post up to a mid-life crisis confession (although you may have a point there) I actually started down this path to make a point about spending time wisely. My point was meant to be professional not personal — speaking to the issue of being strategic as a City Council and City leadership team.
For the past 3 years the City Manager’s Office has tracked the issues that City Council has deliberated upon in Committee and work-sessions to make sure that the staff and Council are focusing on those items that are most relevant to the achievement of the City’s strategic priorities. With so many responsibilities potentially falling within the reach of the City’s mission, the tracking framework offers a way for Council and the administration to continually test for mission creep and ensure that the majority of the City’s resources are staying focused on the primary goals of the community.
In this way, the tracking framework serves as a tool to manage the direction of City affairs consistent with the strategic trajectory desired by the community. If the community or Council expectations change, the staff can use the continuity of the framework to change activities right along with them without disruption.
Cities are needed in many different ways by residents, businesses and visitors and one of the greatest challenges for Council and the administration is sustaining adequate attention, focus and activity levels necessary to advance the communities top priorities. It takes discipline on the part of Council and the staff to make strategic choices, and the tracking framework helps to identify and inform those choices within the context of the City’s goals.
Part of the City’s mission is to be prepared for the unexpected and be ready to respond at a moment’s notice. The City takes pride in its role as community responder, safety net and line in the sand between safety and harm. But as visible and important as the reactive function is, successful cities know that reacting must remain a small percentage of what they do so that the Council and staff can devote the majority of their effort to making decisions that promise to create prosperity moving forward.
That prosperity is defined by the categories and activities contained within the City’s strategic priorities. These priorities are a cumulative product that evolved through years of community visioning exercises, citizen surveys, strategic planning retreats and annual strategy updates.
In 2010 City Council met in Committee for a total of 28.2 hours to set policy, allocate resources and authorize programs and services to achieve the community’s strategic priorities. Here’s a look at how those hours were played out:
Over the last 3 years City Council has devoted over 117 hours in Committee to policy decisions aimed at achieving the community’s strategic goals. There has been good balance between hours spent on Economic Development (32%), Planning & Community Development (32%) and Financial Affairs (23%) as noted in the adjacent charts.
If City Strategic stuff is your thing, we have plenty more for you on our Strategic Planning pages to read at your leisure.