Voices of the community: How our city council can serve our city more effectively | Voice of the community

A well-respected community leader told me recently, “City council has no vision!

Vision is such an essential part of leadership that I felt compelled to follow along to see if this was indeed a valid critique or not.

Without a doubt, each council member has a personal vision for our city; however, have they collectively come to a consensus on what the future direction of our city should look like?

The first logical question is: Has our city council adopted a vision statement? I’ve been browsing our city’s website as that’s where vision statements are usually prominently displayed.

Another determination of our city’s visionary leadership lies in the classic differences between leadership and management.

• Leaders envision WHAT it takes to move our city into the future — based on what they see happening today as well as on the horizon and beyond.

• They do this by adopting 3 to 5 year — or longer — strategic goals plus one or more annual operational goals to work towards achieving each longer-term strategy each year.

• In contrast, managers plan, organize, direct and control HOW staff are to accomplish WHAT their leaders have set out. To do this, they draft an order, a policy statement or an action plan for each operational objective. This should tell us WHO needs to do WHAT for WHEN and, if funding is needed, for HOW MUCH.

• The Board then approves — with or without revisions — the staff work product for implementation and funding.

Are these elements part of our board’s leadership role and responsibility – or are board members rather deeply involved – and deeply distracted from their leadership role – micromanaging issues that fall more properly under our city manager or our city attorney?

This differentiation between WHAT and HOW is essential for any organization to operate effectively.

As many have said, “Leadership does the right things while management does the right things.” To cross the line – back and forth – between leadership and management is counterproductive.

It’s not that our board doesn’t have goals. It has at least eight “City Council Goals” and five “Project Goals” – which is great, of course.

Unfortunately, each set of goals seems to be nothing more than a series of topics to address – not long-term strategic goals (a visionary process in itself).

It is important to understand that only the broad strategic objectives of the “big picture” for our city should be included — what are called KPIs — the key performance indicators. The department’s projects and goals should mirror most others. Accountability for performance is essential at both council and departmental level.

Most KPIs adopted by council rightly become “policies” or “ordinances” – but the writing of these documents is the responsibility of the city manager or city attorney’s staff, not council members. . Board actions include approving these documents, of course—with or without revisions—prior to implementation and funding.

This analogy may help: “Leaders are architects. Managers are builders. That says it well.

Incidentally, our city’s police department (and possibly other departments) have already formally adopted mission and even values ​​statements for their leadership role within their department – but I couldn’t find any statement of vision.

Our Town Hall must set an example for its services!

Additionally, the new (mostly state-mandated) Bakersfield 2045 Rise – a visionary project – is excellent; however, like our previous Greater Bakersfield Vision 2020 project (for which I chaired its Quality of Life segment), it only addresses partial dimensions within our city. And like Vision 2020, it does not affect the essentials needed for visionary leadership at the board level.

My friend is right. Our city council lacks vision.

In summary, we in the community greatly appreciate the hard work of our City Council members and staff; however, visionary leadership is absolutely necessary to project us into the future more effectively than is possible with the Council’s current planning model.

John Pryor is a management consultant specializing in strategic planning. He served earlier as a member of the city’s police commission. He is a recipient of the John Brock Community Service Award from the School of Business and Public Administration at CSU Bakersfield.

About Bradley J. Bridges

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