Thursday, January 27, 2011

CHUCK HAGE: Avoiding Decisions Won’t Help Anyone

Editor’s Note:  This is the last of four columns Chuck Hage is writing on his experience as a Cooperstown village trustee. After money, time and accountability, his fourth topic is:  Decisionmaking.

Village governance comes down to decisions.
Decisions well beyond the up-or-down votes by trustees.  Especially silent decisions made over the years that have foreclosed on opportunities.
Like undermining efforts by skilled people to introduce long-term thinking and formal planning into village policy.
Like denying that, due to lack of professional-level financial accounting and reporting, trustees constantly make decisions that are uninformed.
Like committee chairs asking the board to approve a single choice for a proposal without having justified it against alternatives.
Like ad hoc introduction of trivial topics to the board instead of maintaining priorities and devoting board time to important things. Like encouraging misadventure on the part of staff and dragging debate down to the lowest level in an ongoing campaign of propaganda for personal political purposes.
To put it more politely than that would be dishonest, and the effort required to reverse the trend should not be underestimated.  A culture of good decision-making is easy to conceive but takes time to implement in the face of such negative inertia.
It takes people who are comfortable with being a member of a team that is devoted to teamwork.
It takes reworking of policy and procedures by which village government functions.
It takes thinking at a more strategic level than we have yet seen.
It takes constructive attitudes on the part of officials who don’t crave publicity, but hold office to serve the public.
It takes all of that to achieve good decision-making based solidly on evidence, standards, and discipline.
That is a major challenge the mayor is tackling, step by step.

“Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.”
Albert Einstein.

The village faces many issues requiring decisions of different types, so a single case can be only illustrative, but still worth touching on.  It’s the Hawkeyes.
Their first season was understandably a financial loss, but the team will play in a new league in 2011, the owner has hired a new manager and new marketing is planned. The owner asked the Doubleday committee to increase financial support for the team through lower rent and other means.
In late 2010, the chair of the committee took the owner’s request to the trustees for discussion but did not recommend whether to approve the request.  So the answer to the question – What value did the committee add? – was, none.
It could have picked one of the following: (a) The team will succeed without increased support, (b) The team will fail even with support, (c) Support makes the difference between success and failure.  It could have presented a case for or against meeting the request. 
Instead, the chair did not bring a recommendation to the board and left the owner of the Hawkeyes waiting yet another month for a board decision.  The Hawkeyes might become an asset to the community if judiciously nurtured for a few years, but the board could not be expected to save the day when the responsible chair would not recommend doing so.

The larger issue is whether disappointing outcomes for the community will continue to prevail or be displaced by better process yielding better results.  We have all been hurt by past decisions that wasted resources and missed opportunities. 
This mayor is trying to put into place a culture of good decision-making.  He is applying his administrative skills to attract talent, build teamwork, promote discipline in performing duties, retool and streamline village functions, generate savings, and invest in our future. 
He is dedicated to creating an atmosphere of constructive cooperation in village governance that will serve this community well during challenging and prosperous times.  If we help him succeed, we can elevate the public sector of the village to a level of performance that earns a share of the name Cooperstown.

“We cannot predict the future, but we can create it.”
Peter Drucker

No comments:

Post a Comment