Monday, November 9, 2015

Are Richardson's Goals SMART?

There's a common philosophy in management that goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based. There's even an acronym for it: S.M.A.R.T.

Let's evaluate the "2015-2017 Goals" set by the Richardson City Council according to the S.M.A.R.T. standard. On second thought, let's not. You know, don't you, that they are going to come up short. And they do. Because the goals are pretty much the same as two years ago, let's just review what I wrote then, "The 'Wow Factor' of Richardson's Goals", when the city council of that time published its "2013-2015 Goals". Go ahead. Go off and reread it, then come back. I'll be here.


The criticisms then hold for this term's goals as well. This term's goals are pretty much, word for word, last term's goals. We'll look at the differences in a bit.

As for whether Richardson's goals are S.M.A.R.T., maybe one can argue that goals like "For Richardson to be a place where people are proud to live, work, and engage in the community" are specific and realistic. You might also argue that the deadline for all the goals is 2017, so they are time-related. But if so, then the goals are all maintenance of the status quo, because the same goals appear year after year. It's harder to argue that any of these goals are measurable. Without a measurable goal, it's pointless to argue whether or not they are attainable.

Given that the goals don't change year after year, it suggests that these goals aren't the type of goals that the council can check off the list when they are achieved. The council used to set these kind of goals. Remember when "evaluate the development of a dog park" was a goal? Done. Now, all we get are motherhood and apple pie goals. Goals that say what you'll strive towards, not how much forward progress you'll make. Goals that don't make any promises you can't keep. Goals that you can write and forget 'em.

So what can we learn by examining the tweaks made to the motherhood and apple pie verbiage this year?
  • The city council added the word "global" to the goals. Richardson wants to be a globally recognized city, not just locally and nationally recognized. I think we learn more about this council by what they did *not* add. The council didn't seem to notice, or mind, that the word "neighborhood" appears nowhere in the goals.
  • The word "business" appears four times. The word "neighborhood"? Zero. Actually, that's not a tweak from last term. The word "neighborhood" wasn't in the last set of goals, either.
  • The council dropped "To increase city revenues without raising the tax rate." Now that's something measurable (and maybe controversial), but now it's gone. That and "to reduce costs" have both been dropped and replaced by "To effectively and efficiently manage city resources." Nothing measurable there, or controversial, either, which might have been the point of the change.
  • The council dropped its goal to "Increase our 'Wow Factor'". Stop and think about that. Does it mean that the council thinks Richardson's "Wow Factor" is high enough already? Or could it just mean that "Wow Factor" is a term too closely associated with former mayor Laura Maczka, whom the new council would just as soon everyone forgot? If so, that's S.M.A.R.T.

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