It's Your Birthday! Celebrate or Evaluate??

Take time on your community's birthdate to evaluate where you have been and are going.

7/11/20233 min read

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One week ago, we celebrated our nation’s birthday on July 4th. Except for the rare “Founders Day” events and birthday recognitions in some of the most historical cities in the original 13 colonies, I believe you will agree it is hard to find local or State birthday celebrations in many other places. I am not suggesting you have one. Go for it, if so motivated. What I suggest is that you use the point in time that your community is another year older just as many of us spend our own birthday. That is that we take time to reflect on how far we’ve come and to think about what’s ahead. This “stop and review-preview” time is valuable as we seek to reminisce about the good and to also think about whatever it is that we can look forward to. Public corporations, economic development organizations, chambers of commerce and similar entities put these things in writing to share with their investors/members. Often called Annual Reports or Action Plans, these summarize the good that has occurred and the good that has yet to occur if they continue to support the cause. This same approach would be a valuable annual exercise for every community and county elected leadership team to incorporate into their own planning process.

Wait a minute, you may say. We do this during our annual budget review. This is actually a terrible time to step back and evaluate “what’s working,” “what’s not,” and “what we should do” with programs, personnel, and dollars. This is because every budget cycle is the same. Your department heads and outside entities who received funding last year will strive to convince you that due to your funding and support they achieved outstanding results, so much so that they need more money to do even better (more) next year. This is not saying that all of those presenting to your budget committee are trying to pull the wool over your eyes, but they would be foolish not to brag on themselves and their departments, and will almost always ask for more, not less. It is essentially their duty to protect the interests of their departments and those who report to them. As a result, they thereby support their own interests.

All I’m saying is to have your budget process, but don’t use it as an update to your plan (you do have a strategic plan, don’t you?). Listen, learn, award good performance, but also take a separate look away from budget time to answer several important questions, such as: Is this effort, department, person or persons doing what we expected and wanted? If it is falling short of what we need from it-them, what can we do to correct it? Is it more money, more-better resources, or do we need to shut it down and-or find a different direction? Failure should never be final, so what can we learn from this and create something that is smarter and more efficient-effective? How are programs and our people supporting each other to reap the full benefits of teamwork? If groups work totally independent there is often duplication and always a lack of communication. Does what we did last year set us up to add the next phase-layer next year? Again, if you did something good, you naturally want it to serve as laying the foundation for even more good next year. Have we reached out to all of the partners who could help us with knowledge, experience and money, so that our dollars go further in building our community? Remember that LOTS of groups-organizations are out there with programs created to help you. LET THEM.

I think you get the point. Celebrate your town’s birthday. After all, just like our nation, you were given birth, which means you also get older each year. What better time is there than to consider where are you in terms of the life, livelihood, success and growth of your community?

As you look deep into "how far my town has come in the past year, also recognize that in the coming year you will be following a path. This is a path that you build with your decisions, actions, or inactions. It is the right path or wrong one. You get to decide which AND what you are going to do about it. Do the right things to ensure that you will celebrate another Happy Birthday next year.