Friday, September 24, 2021

3rd Dispatch from the Chamber of Secrets

The Richardson City Council has been meeting in secret to set the council's vision, mission, goals, strategies, and tactics for its two-year term. In my two first dispatches, I covered the background of these meetings. This time, I'll finally get into the process the City Council is using to set its goals.

The process had a facilitator leading the exercise. His process is similar to one I am very familiar with in the corporate environment. It was inculcated into me 40 years ago at Texas Instruments. There, it was the Strategic Planning process developed by Pat Haggerty, a founder of TI, who is given much of the credit for building TI into one of the world's leading semiconductor companies. I was struck by the coincidence of seeing his photo in the display case in the Mayor's office. Or maybe it wasn't a coincidence. Haggerty's imprint on Texas Instruments and, therefore, Richardson was deep and lasting.

At TI, the planning process was called OST, for Objectives, Strategies, and Tactics. The basis was so simple it seemed obvious. Set your objective (say, win the football game). Develop strategies that support your objective (on offense pass more; on defense blitz more). Then develop tactics to achieve those strategies (excel at blocking and tackling). So far, so simple.

The next part of TI's process is tougher. TI had a detail I haven't seen the City of Richardson adopt. Each OST would need to be accompanied by a measurement and a schedule for achievement. Without that, you end up with unmeasurable goals without accountability.

How TI deployed its objectives, strategies, and tactics through the corporation was through a process called Policy Deployment. Each level of the company (divisions, departments, branches, and sections) would develop their own OSTs, using the OSTs of the level above them for direction. In theory, when the plans got executed bottoms-up, they would all mesh in support of the top level objectives. I have no idea how the City of Richardson deploys the City Council's goals, but it is similar at least down to the City Manager. Each week when the City Manager brings something before the City Council, in his introduction he specifies what council goal or goals it's in support of.

So that's the reassuring part of the story. The City Council is using, mostly, a very traditional corporate strategic planning process.

How's it going? I didn't attend the City Council's first secret goal-setting meeting, but the process seems to have started with a brainstorming exercise. Individual council members contributed attributes that they want Richardson to be known as. No surprises here: a couple of dozen attributes were listed, like great streets, vibrant economy, safe, revitalized, new and exciting businesses. There was some tension. Both "more high-rise buildings" and "small-town feel" made the unsourced list. What was maybe telling was what was not on it. Low taxes, limited government, free enterprise, the rule of law, no hot-button terms, no bloody shirt terms, made the list. Instead, there was room for attributes like diverse, multicultural, "something for everybody." Maybe those are just as much hot-button terms for some, but I for one was generally encouraged by the brainstorm results.

But one word was missing on this list. It was also missing on the drafts of the mission and goals. That word was "neighborhoods." But this new Council isn't done yet. There's still time to correct the omission. Sadly, I wouldn't bet on it, however. It is also missing from the prior council's 2019-2021 "Vision, Goals, and Strategies".

I had some other concerns. I'll save those for my 4th dispatch.

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