goalsThis is the goal statement given on my home city’s website:

“As the elected representatives of Woodinville, the City Council understands that the purpose of the City is to fairly and equitably represent the interests of the citizens of Woodinville, and to carry out its lawful duties on behalf of citizens of Woodinville.”

Stripping out the prologue, we are left with:

“… to fairly and equitably represent the interests of the citizens of Woodinville, and to carry out its lawful duties on behalf of citizens of Woodinville.”

This statement is pretty good as far as ordinary goal statements.  But I think we can improve on it a bit.

First, I don’t sense a demand for continuous improvement in the statement itself.  Such a demand could be buried in the strategy and tactics necessary to achieve the goal.  I am not aware of any City documents that demand for continuous improvement on the part of the City.  Seems like a serious oversight to me.  If I’m wrong, and such demands do exist in City documents, I’d be grateful for a reference to them.

A second problem is the clause “and to carry out it’s lawful duties on behalf of the citizens of Woodinville.”

My objection to having this in the goal statement is that it’s really just one of many requirements that has to be met in order to achieve the condition promised by the first half of the goal statement: “to fairly and equitably represent the interests of the citizens of Woodinville.”

If I was writing the goal statement for the City, I’d write something like this:

“To produce more value for its citizens, now, and in the future.”

This says exactly what I want the City to do for me:  Starting today, I want the City to find a way to produce more value for me.  And then, on every following day, I want even more value produced for me.

I also want this for my fellow citizens:  I want the City, on each succeeding day, to be of greater value to my fellow citizens then it was on the day before.

Yes, I know, this is not easy. That’s the point. I need the City to do for me the things that are difficult for me to do. The easy things I can do myself.

My goal statement is demanding that the City follow a real process of ongoing improvement.  Why should we citizens insist on such a thing?

We should insist on this because there is no standing still in life. You are either improving, or you’re getting worse.  We live in a very competitive world.  New problems are recognized all the time.  Therefore, the City must be constantly striving to — and succeeding at — improving its ability to bring value to its citizens.

As citizens I believe we must do two things.

First, we must demand that our City constantly improve so that it can resolve these problems effectively, and without foisting them back on us in the form of higher taxes or wasted opportunities.

Second, we must offer ideas for improvement.  Anyone can go down to City Hall and offer comments during Public Comment.  Haranguing people is easy.  But can you do something constructive?  Can you do it in a way that avoids creating even bigger problems for the City?  Doing this is not a triviality.  As citizens, we can and should join in the hard work of identifying real solutions to the difficult problems faced by the people who run local government.  But we have to do it responsibly and we have to have a significant and net-positive impact.

Now our City today is pretty good, so none of this is meant to criticize the good work that is already being done. We are making progress and I’m grateful for that progress. Making progress is very difficult and the City Council and the City Staff deserve our respect and support. It pains me when I sometimes see citizens resorting to ad hominem attacks on our elected officials and/or members of the Staff.  Yes, I know you’re frustrated.  But creating walls of distrust is not the solution.

What I am trying to do on this blog and elsewhere is to point to the “open channel” — the many directions in which we can move to greatly increase the ability of our City to produce value for its citizens.

I’ll have more to say about goal statements in the future.  Specifically, I will write about the value of having a concise, 10 – 15 page plan that describes the strategies and tactics to be followed in order to achieve the goal.  I don’t believe we have such a plan today.  Please correct me if this is wrong.