Three of the Worst Plans We’ve Seen

A number of years ago Sinbad was in a movie called “Houseguest” and without getting into the entire story line there is this moment where Sinbad’s character is presenting pictures of bad teeth to an assembly of students, bringing about ewws and ooohhs.

This slideshow is the planning equivalent.  Check it out and then check out this recent LinkedIn article by David Toyer, our founder, that addresses the flaws in planning which result in bad plans like these.

Bad Plans Slideshow

Toyer Strategic Granted Trademark

It’s official!

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has granted Toyer Strategic Consulting a trademark on the Toyer Framework® – our signature approach to economic development strategic planning for communities 50,000 population and under.  We specifically designed the Toyer Framework® to ensure that economic development strategic planning in these smaller communities is structured to:

  1. Catalog a community’s physical and other assets
  2. Articulate a community’s SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities & threats)
  3. Define a community vision and identify priority projects
  4. Resolve inconsistencies among past plans and differing community visions
  5. Define the roles and responsibilities of key community stakeholders
  6. Establish an adoptable, actionable 1-3 year work plan

Click to learn about the Toyer Framework®

Toyer Framework® is a registered trademark of Toyer Strategic Consulting, LLC.

Exclusive: Rhodora Annexation Reaches 60%

Working with several landowners, we recently submitted a 60% notice of intent to annex the Rhodora Area to the City of Lake Stevens.  Getting to this milestone was not easy.

The effort began last September with an analysis of the area and determination of which method of annexation method to pursue, deciding to move forward with a direct petition method annexation.

Since then we’ve spent months reaching out and meeting with nearly every property owner in the annexation area to discuss the annexation and what it means.

You can learn more about the annexation at www.toyerstrategic.com/annex

But here are examples of how we have reached out:

Mailer #1

Door Hanger #2 (Front)

Door Hanger #2 (Back)

Mailer #3

Want to Succeed? Ditch the Stakeholders!

If I had a dollar for every time I saw a community bring together a group of “stakeholders” I’d be comfortably retired and if I had a second dollar for every stakeholder process that ended without an action, I’d be on one of Fortune Magazine’s money lists.

Now before you finishing lighting your torch and locating your pitchfork, let me explain.

Good Intentions Don’t Spark Action

The intent behind stakeholder committees/groups is very laudable: involve the public in a process, educate them on a challenge or opportunity, record their input and diffuse potential objections.

But most stakeholder processes today are generally failures.  They are poorly attended, poorly managed and orchestrated to be very limited in scope.  Stakeholders are usually limited to a position of review and respond – completely missing the opportunity to re-imagine processes and plans, rewrite strategies and goals, and resolve to take real actions.

This is why even out of the best plan or idea. . .stakeholders fade away and big ideas never materialize into results.

The Wrong Audience

I have come to believe that stakeholders may be the wrong audience.  Unlike investors or shareholders, they typically are not personally vested in an outcome.  Instead, by definition, a stakeholder is someone with an interest or concern in something.

This is the problem.  Having an interest or a concern doesn’t often merit action.  I’m interested in history.  I like to read about it, I like to watch programs about it.  I’ll even occasionally reference it.  But, my interest alone doesn’t compel me to take action.  For example, I am fascinated by presidential biographies, but at age 40 I just visited my first one and it is only an hour drive away from where I live.

A stakeholder is no different.  They are curious, they may have a question about the topic and they may want to offer an opinion.  But they generally have no desire to be responsible for the outcome.

A New Concept for Results: Coalitions

I believe it’s time to gather fewer stakeholders and instead build more coalitions.  It’s time to move away from asking people to serve in an “advisory” capacity and ask them at the outset to serve in an “achievement” role.  And even more importantly, put them in a role where their recommendations carry some actual weight in not only creating the plan, but initiating the action.

My only worry is that the term coalitions too often creates a negative reaction or visual depiction of being either “activism” or “political action” or, in rare cases, “extremism.”

However, we need to remember that real coalitions are far from this perception.  A coalition is simply individuals or groups that, in their own self-interest, cooperate in joint action.  The keywords in that sentence being “cooperate” and “action.”

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

A Common Failure in Economic Development

In February newspapers reported on a city council that was discussing the potential of defunding their economic development department a mere 3 years after its creation and 12 months after it had become fully staffed.  Read Story

Even more troublesome?  The city completed a 62 page comprehensive economic development strategic plan on November 6, 2016 – just four months before this discussion took place.  We reviewed the comprehensive plan and it’s clear they spent a lot of money to develop the strategy.

Unfortunately, this is an all to common occurrence in many communities across the U.S.  Here’s five major reasons why city led economic development efforts are NOT WORKING:

  1. City funded economic development departments often lack an actionable strategy and the views of elected leaders on “what is economic development” often don’t align with how economic developers do what they do.
  2. To develop a formal strategy, cities usually hire a consultant to complete a comprehensive strategic plan with market analysis, a regurgitation of every community plan before it, design sketches of what areas of the community could look like in the future, and other ‘fluff’ that many consultants sell like candy to a toddler.  These plans are expensive and they are usually light on the actions that need to be taken and how those actions will be completed (implementation).
  3. Economic development isn’t cheap and when a city (or county) budget fluctuates, economic development is often viewed as a luxury best afforded when times are good.  When the choice is between public safety and economic development, you know who will win that battle.
  4. Economic development doesn’t happen overnight and without a clear strategy (with clear expectations and timelines) that elected leaders, staff and the public can understand, it’s nearly impossible to show a return on investment (ROI) in an era where everyone wants the pay-back on their investment to begin immediately.
  5. Cities often times fund economic development just enough to hire the qualified staff, leaving them without the resources to do their jobs effectively.

How can this be overcome?

  1. Clarity.  A city investing in an economic development department must have a clear and common vision for what economic development means for the community.  For example, is it retail development or tourism or new industry attraction?  Each of these requires a different approach, comes with a different set of actions and happen over different timelines.  If that isn’t reconciled first, then expect trouble ahead, especially if a city (or county) believes economic development is all of those things.  That’s when priorities need to be established, because no 1-3 person staff can expertly focus on all of it at once.
  2. Simplicity.  Spending 6-12 months and $100s of thousands of dollars on complex market studies, sub-area plans, design standards and all the rest that cities (and counties) typically ask for in a comprehensive economic development strategy can be too complicated for the first action and create unreasonable expectations.  Thus, before biting off a comprehensive plan, a city (or county) needs to adopt a basic and implementable strategy that flows from the common vision (discussed in “Clarity” above) and addresses the top economic development priorities.  This establishes a short term work plan and is the precursor to additional planning and analysis.  Vague strategy like “develop the retail corridor” is bound to fail.
  3. Prioritize results over extravagance.  Cities (and counties) should prioritize results and momentum over more elaborate, extravagant and expensive planning projects.  Starting with the comprehensive plan may be a good idea when you are a well-funded private (or semi-private) economic development organization, but when you’re a newer, publicly funded economic development program the public perception is your spending lots of money and then the expectation for results ratchets up and quickens in urgency.
  4. Planning isn’t an accomplishment.  Cities (and counties) need to realize that completing the plan isn’t an economic development “accomplishment” nor is how much you spent on the plan and measure of how good your program will be?
  5. Another way.  Here’s an alternative to starting with comprehensive planning efforts.  Hire a consultant (or facilitator that understands economic development) to lead elected leaders, staff and a few citizen and business stakeholders through the creation of a vision and common understanding of economic development followed by prioritizing some initial action items and a timeline implementation of additional planning steps.  At fraction of a cost, this truncated strategy can help a city avoid the pitfalls we’ve discussed and more quickly demonstrate progress, build momentum and produce early wins.

Disclosure: we are not working for the city referenced in this example, but we are confident we could help.