The unstrategic anti-plan returns


ZombieWednesday’s standing committee heard that the so-called “community-based strategic plan” has risen from the dead – a document that was committee-driven (not community; and a committee of carefully selected buddies, at that…), and was neither strategic nor a plan. See it in the agenda package.

A real strategic plan would have been council-driven, based on the vision of our elected representatives. But having none, The Block turned it over to an outsider and their friends to come up with something.*

Once The Block approved its creation in 2015, the resulting document, the ‘CBSP,’** became a bureaucratic zombie that never seems to die, like an extra in some cheesy Bruce Campbell B-flick. And like that undead extra, it continues to ring the cash register.

This zombie is supposed to be a “report card,” but instead it lists all sorts of minutiae that council patted its collective backs over, even though most things listed were simply part of some larger process, or just staff’s regular jobs. For The Block to even comment on them would be to micro-manage. Or even nano-manage them. It’s called the “2016 Report Card” even though 2016 is only two-thirds through. Maybe the other third of the year doesn’t matter, as long as the consultant gets paid.

And of course, The Block wants to take credit for this and for what staff do. Like they actually rolled up their sleeves and dug in to do some real work instead of meeting in secret to plot and scheme and raise your taxes.

So in a term highlighted by having no accomplishments for the greater good, the “CBSP” has become The Block’s poster child for their idea of success.

They hope that by waving it around periodically you’ll be so dazzled by its brilliance that you’ll forget that they raised your taxes. Twice. Or that they destroyed our 150-year-old working partnership between water and energy utilities and are running our electricity corporation into the ground. Or that they are trying (in secret meetings, of course) to kill the airport industrial park and its 400-plus jobs. Or that they almost scuttled the hospital redevelopment (and are still trying to do so…). Or they gave Councillor ‘Senator’ Jeffrey an unlimited expense account to wine and dine across the country (but apparently not Oakville where the latest FCM meeting was held – probably the in-drive food service and movie are terrible… and she can’t get her warm Camembert in the car…). Or the staff morale they’ve shattered.

But I know that you, dear reader, aren’t fooled. If this dreck is all they have to show for two years at the table, then it’s a sorry statement. But let’s take a closer look at it…

Wikipedia defines strategic planning as:

…an organization’s process of defining its strategy, or direction, and making decisions on allocating its resources to pursue this strategy.

Yet nowhere in this document can we find any direction or resource allocation. Just snippets from the committee’s wish-list of staff tasks. On Simply Strategic Planning it defines it as:

…any plan which looks forward several years and which is concerned with massive factors only.

Our un-strategic non-plan zombie document is full of minutiae and micro-managing. No strategy at all. And it looks days or weeks, not years in advance. It begins with the inappropriately named “vision statement”:

Collingwood is a responsible, sustainable and accessible community that leverages its core strengths: a vibrant downtown, a setting within the natural environment, and an extensive waterfront. This offers a healthy, affordable, and four-season lifestyle to all residents, businesses and visitors.

Well, that’s clearly a description of the present (as seen through particularly dense, rose-coloured glasses…) not a vision. A vision looks to the future; something to reach for. This looks to the past (clearly not taking into account The Block’s destructive swath cut through this town’s facilities, services, municipal staff, reputation and relationships…). But it has touchy-feely buzz words in it, so The Block loves it.

And then using Capital Letters in a Vain Effort to Emphasize the Importance of Minor Items and Irrelevant Detail, it notes:

Each of the Goals has a number of Objectives and Key Performance Indicators (KPI). The progress made to date in achieving these KPIs is found on the attached chart.

Gawd, don’t bureaucrats just Love Capital Letters. They Make Everything Seem So Important.

Take a look at this document. And weep. It’s obvious even to the casual reader that most of the items aren’t goals: they’re mere tasks. Or worse: recommendations to do a task. Stuff like holding meetings and writing reports. Nose to the grindstone stuff for staff, about as exciting as watching cement dry. But nothing for The Block to crow about.

Yet none of them piped up and said anything like, “Hey, monitoring previously approved plans and including funding in staff reports aren’t goals. They’re just what staff do.” The Block salivate over this stuff because in a term with zero accomplishments, they need to look like they’ve actually done something. Even if it’s someone else doing it.

We’re not fooled. We may be impoverished by the Block’s actions to destroy our community, but we’re not fooled by them.

Making sure that the ”angry blue ant’ logo of the ‘CBSP’ is used in every document regardless of its relevance isn’t a strategic goal. Unless of course your strategy is to waste time and ink. The public DOESN’T CARE about some cutesy logo and I’ll bet 99% couldn’t recognize it. All this attention on making sure the ‘CBSP’ gets precedence over real work and content is simply onanistic.

“Annual reaffirmation of the Code of Conduct by Council” isn’t a goal. It’s grandstanding. And pointless: the code has been broken so many times this term that it’s a community joke; everyone knows it’s treated like toilet paper by The Block. Even the procedural bylaw has been broken so often it is meaningless piffle. Besides, there is no legal requirement for anyone to “reaffirm” or sign it. Hollow gestures are just that. But they aren’t goals.

Had the Code of Conduct meant anything to this lot, they wouldn’t have fired their own integrity commissioner to avoid public scrutiny. Ethics? We don’t need no steenkin’ ethics…

The “annual completion of the CBSP report card” isn’t a goal either: it’s a means to ensure the consultants continue to get paid for this codswallop. But it’s only your taxes and you’ve got a lot more money to donate to the town, so why should council worry about the cost?

“Continued promotion of the Healthy Kids’ Challenge” isn’t a goal. It’s a staff task, like most of the items listed. The HKC was approved last term so it’s not even something this bunch did. It doesn’t involve council: it’s a job for staff.

Facilitating meetings – or even lower effort: advocating meetings (which means talking about possibly doing something in the indefinite future…) – isn’t a goal. It’s part of a job description.

Continuing to participate in county or regional activities isn’t a goal. It’s simply part of the process of governance. Besides, council doesn’t “facilitate” anything: it merely spectates at these meetings. The Block lets administrative staff do the heavy lifting (and thinking) for them.

The “requirement for at least 30% canopy coverage on development sites” is a sad joke. There is no canopy requirement for the built section of town and trees get chopped down without any sort of management or oversight. In fact, the town itself takes down about 150 trees a year, and replaces less than 50% of them. What sort of “goal” is that? And who polices it? What are the penalties? Can the Committee of Adjustment just waive the rules and grant exemptions regardless of this “goal”? (answer: yes they can and do.)

“Develop a campaign to promote and educate the public on the heritage and history of Collingwood.” You think council will do this? Most of the Block don’t read their own agendas, let alone develop campaigns. How will they promote anything? Educate anyone? That’s not a strategic goal: it’s a another staff chore.

But what will it cost? What will any of it cost? The so-called “plan” fails to provide any budget information so nothing can be properly planned. And of course this council doesn’t read its own budget so it has no idea where the money will come from for anything. Except from your taxes: they’ve raised them twice in two years, and will no doubt raise them again. After all, it’s only money. Your money, of course.

Exploring opportunities and annual reporting are also not goals. They’re staff jobs descriptions. And they are certainly not a vision for creating a future Collingwood.

The whole document is one of those self-promotional devices that will be relegated to the dustbin once a new, more level-headed council gets elected in 2018. You paid for this thing and you’re still paying for it.

Collingwood deserves better.
* This “plan” puts the future of our community in the hands of staff, not your elected representatives. Candidates ran on issues and made promises. They heard from the public about what was expected during the election. Voters were clear on what they wanted and what thought were their representatives’ priorities. But voters were in for a surprise. Look ma: no plan, no ethics!
A strategic plan should have been developed by council, based on those priorities and promises. Instead, The Block sloughed it off onto outsiders. Administrative staff currently run the town because council abdicated its responsibilities. Staff, of course, love it. But you, dear reader, have to shoulder the consequences.

** Oh, the fun you can have with this initialism. Collingwood’s Bullshit Self Promotion. Council Brags to Staff & Peers. Crap, Bullshit  & Shameless Pandering. Council Brays, Staff Prays. Your turn…

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