Goal Setting Is Essential

Goals can align elected officials, staff and community.

Goals can align elected officials, staff and community.

I rarely watch City Commission meetings and if I do it’s usually after the fact, so I can check on an issue I’m interested in without having to wade through the other stuff.

The Commission I served on made the decision to stream commission meetings way back in the dark ages of 2007 when we hired a company called Granicus to film and stream meetings. It was a good investment (although only two of my meetings are in the archives and so much history was missed as a result of not having this technology in the rocking 80s and progressive 90s) residents and interested parties can tune in from wherever they are in the world to catch the happenings at City Hall.

At the tale of end of last week’s meeting, Commissioner Jordana Jarjura welcomed new City Manager Don Cooper and called for goal setting meetings, which she says she has waited a long time for.

It’s a great idea and one that was used to great success in the past. Commissioner Jarjura rightly noted that goal setting sessions done well in advance of budgeting gives policymakers the opportunity to shape the budget according to the city commission’s goals. What a concept.

I never understood how you can have a budget that doesn’t reflect your goals and objectives as a commission. And I wouldn’t want to be part of any organization that didn’t spend the time upfront figuring out what it hopes to accomplish, with clear strategies, budgets and plans to make sure that the goals are achieved.

Goals promote smart budgeting and goals promote accountability and transparency, two things we keep hearing a lot about.

When you work off of a blueprint, it helps you decide whether ideas and proposals make sense. Does the idea advance a goal or objective? If so, it can help you decide whether to support and fund the idea. Consequently, if the proposal contradicts your mission or just doesn’t fit, it gives policymakers an elegant way to say no.

Back in the day, both Delray Beach and Boca Raton used a consultant named Lyle Sumek to work with the commission, senior staff and the community on goal setting. I liked Lyle. He was funny, made sure everybody participated and he worked with cities all over the country so he brought a national perspective to the process. A lot of cities wrestle with the same concerns and Lyle was a fountain of information on how other jurisdictions solved problems or why certain approaches fell short. He had case studies galore.

It probably makes some sense to use a range of consultants over time to guarantee fresh perspectives, but Lyle got to know us and that was helpful too.

We used to meet in the Sunshine as a commission and everyone attended—usually all day.

Separately, Lyle would meet with department heads to garner their ideas and input, an important exercise since ultimately it is up to staff to implement the goals set by the commission.

We also used to engage 50 or so residents, a cross-section of people, to get their ideas and input before settling on the next year’s goals which were printed, distributed via newsletter, web and brochure and at speeches we made at various Homeowner Association meetings. The goals were also framed and displayed at City Hall for all to see—a reminder of what we were striving to achieve. At the beginning of the New Year, we shared our successes and where we fell short, at a Town Hall meeting, a practice started by Mayor Tom Lynch in the 90s, that we sadly abandoned a few years back, at least for a spell.

What struck me during my tenure and during my time covering the commission as a reporter during the late 80s early 90s, was how in sync we were with the community and senior staff.

More often than not, if we named ten goals, the citizens and staff would have 8 or more of the same things they wanted to see accomplished.

Goal setting builds team work and community unity, which was a goal we adopted in 2000.

Charettes, visioning exercises, roundtable discussions, mayor’s meetings and getting out into the neighborhoods also build community and make people feel a part of their hometown.

We did a visions exercise in 2013 that seems to have disappeared. That’s a shame.

Goal setting has been spotty as well.

That’s why Ms. Jarjura’s idea is a good one.

We have a new City Manager and many new department heads, it will be good for them as well.

Then of course, you have to execute.

Here’s hoping they listen to the junior member of the commission, she’s a good one.