Letter to Buffalo Rising readers by Mike Weekes (Candidate – Mayor of Buffalo – 2013):
Two score and fifteen years ago the Saint Lawrence Seaway was opened and ever since our city has continued a long, slow downward spiral of suburban migration, racial strife and the resulting economic malady that continues today.
We are engaged in a great economic downturn, an ineffective recovery. With hundreds of annual wonderful events, efforts, endeavors and investments that are reminiscent of those good old days, we are not moving in the right direction, overall. Recent corporate infusions can provide temporary value, but they are not sustainable as long as they remain outside of any coordinated, comprehensive plan.
In spite of these many bright, happy milestones in the Buffalo Story since the 1990s, there remains a void, a gap, keeping these mutually exclusive, yet interdependent outcomes from being part of a cultural transformation.
As long as there is a lack of leadership, structure, strategy and focus on customer and employee alike, there will never be a game-changing momentum. We slow our rate of decent, but that decent remains nonetheless.
I ask the people of Buffalo, from whence I came, to allow me the opportunity to restore leadership, strategy, structure – a focus of the citizen and the employee, as Mayor of Buffalo in the Election of 2013. Like you, I am an independent, I think for myself and say what I mean and will no longer buy the nonsense.
Pretty good is no longer good enough!
Let us not say how great Buffalo once was, but let us enjoy a new Buffalo that takes the kinds of progress that Buffalo Rising highlights every week and make them part of the way we do business everyday!
Let’s develop and execute a simple, specific, realistic comprehensive plan, with capable, qualified folks with the right values, with a robust process, valid measures and best of all effective outcomes that reverse the downward trend and restore our strength.
Lets honor those passionate, visionary, courageous folks that we read about in Buffalo Rising by developing and executing a plan that makes their accomplishments a way of life here. Let’s not settle for pretty good. Let’s be great!
Let us hear from you, all the Pessimists, the Optimists, the Cynical, the Dreamers, the Schemers, the Rich, the Poor, the Single Moms, the Old, the Young, the Blue collar and the White collar, the White, the Black, the Latino, the Sudanese, the Irish, the Italians, the Polish and all.
Use this article as a means to voice your concerns, your ideas, and those characteristics and features of the service you receive from the City of Buffalo to form that strategy.
We will distill all these ideas into a consensus of no more than six strategic themes that will become a new action plan and we will communicate on a quarterly basis our progress to that vision you help create. Imagine a 2-page Buffalo Strategic Plan that everyone understands, most agree with and is measurable, specific and realistic!
Include your qualifications, if you would like to be bold enough to help.
In twelve years, by December of 2025, the City of Buffalo can be one of America’s Great Cities. But it depends on YOU! It will happen with the systematic methodologies used by healthcare, non-profit, manufacturing and educational organizations all around the USA.
A Strategy for a City starts with the Voice of the Citizen…
Here are 101 Questions for you to consider, Buffalo. Which Three mean most to you and why? These will be used to compile a consensus of strategic themes that will lead to a set of strategic objectives. Email the author and speak up!
101 Questions Every Buffalonian Should Ask
What value, services, and products do I seek from the City of Buffalo?
How does the City of Buffalo need to perform, from my perspective, and how do they measure their own performance?
When I look at how the City of Buffalo is “organized” do I see gaps in key information, key performance requirements and results?
Where is there conflicting, little, or no information available?
If I were to develop a plan of action, to improve how well the City of Buffalo performs, what would the above tell me about where to begin?
Does the City of Buffalo and City Hall have a clear mission (why do they say they exist and how does that compare to your idea of their reason for being)?
Does the City of Buffalo have a clear vision (where does the City of Buffalo want to be at the end of this year, three years from now, ten years from now)?
How does the City of Buffalo promote and achieve ethical behavior?
As far as the City of Buffalo Workforce, what are the education levels, how are they engaged in the mission and vision?
What are the major assets that the City of Buffalo has to achieve their mission and vision (information, knowledge, technology, cultural, historical, heritage, tourism, etc.)?
How the City of Buffalo really governed and what is are the reporting relationships among those who lead the city?
Who are the key customers of the Coty of Buffalo and their customer groups as well as associated voice, requirements and critical characteristics and features of services needed?
Who are the key stakeholders of the City of Buffalo and what are their key requirements?
How do these requirements and expectations differ among different groups of customers and stakeholders?
Who are the suppliers and partners of the City of Buffalo?
What are the core competencies of the City of Buffalo?
What mechanisms does the City of Buffalo use to communicate within itself as well as to customers, stakeholders, suppliers and partners outside of City Hall?
What is the competitive environment at the City of Buffalo, including key strategic challenges, advantages?
What sort of system of continuous improvement does the City of Buffalo employ?
How does the City of Buffalo evaluate itself, assess organizational learning and innovative business or other key processes?
What comparative data does the City of Buffalo use to determine its state of affairs?
How does the Mayor of the City of Buffalo Lead?
How does the Mayor of Buffalo set the city’s vision and values?
How does the Mayor’s senior team deploy this vision and these values?
How well does the Mayor create a sustainable organization (where performance improvement, accomplishment of mission, strategic objectives, innovation, and agility happens on a regular basis)?
How does the Mayor of Buffalo create a workforce culture that delivers a consistently positive customer experience and fosters customer engagement?
How well does the Mayor of Buffalo create an environment of workforce learning?
How well does the Mayor of Buffalo develop and enhance the leadership skills of those in the workforce?
Is the development of future leaders a priority for the current Mayor of Buffalo?
Does the Mayor of Buffalo encourage frank, two-way communication throughout City Hall, communicating key decisions and take an active role in recognition?
Does the Mayor of Buffalo have a focus on action to attain the mission and vision?
How does the City of Buffalo review and achieve accountability?
How does the City of Buffalo achieve fiscal accountability?
Is there transparency in operations, the selection and disclosure policy for governance?
Are there independent and internal audits and communications of findings?
How are senior leaders at the City of Buffalo evaluated for performance?
How is the well-being of the citizens of Buffalo made part of the strategy?
How does the City of Buffalo actively support key blocks and neighborhoods?
How well do these programs effectively assure well-being and desired outcomes?
How does the City of Buffalo establish its strategy?
How does the City of Buffalo conduct strategic planning?
What are the key steps in developing the strategic plan at the City of Buffalo?
How does the City of Buffalo ensure that key elements like strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are included in the strategic planning development?
What are Buffalo’s key strategic objectives?
How do these key objectives consider stakeholders, core competencies, innovation and shifts and changes in economic and other circumstances?
What action plans come out of the above strategic planning process in Buffalo?
How are the above actions deployed?
What performance measures accompany the actions taken related to Buffalo’s plan?
How are resources allocated to achieve the City of Buffalo’s strategic action plans?
How is the City of Buffalo’s workforce plan tied to the strategic plan?
What performance measures are used to assess the workforce’s ability to meet the plan?
Are there any performance projections developed or maintained by the City of Buffalo?
Who does the City of Buffalo see as their customers?
How does the City of Buffalo obtain information from (listen to) its customers?
Are customers satisfied with how well the City of Buffalo listens to them?
Who are Buffalo’s future customers (or do we plan for less and less)?
How does the City of Buffalo determine customer satisfaction?
How does Buffalo determine how well it is performing compared to other cities?
When Buffalo fails to satisfy a customer, how is that information captures and how is that incident managed to restore the relationship and eliminate a repeat of the incident (how well does the City of Buffalo learn from its mistakes and develop good judgment)?
How does the City of Buffalo identify customer requirements for services?
How does the City of Buffalo build customer relationships?
How does the City of Buffalo enable customer to seek information and answers?
How does the City of Buffalo use data and other information to improve marketing, build a customer-focused culture and identify innovation opportunities?
How does the City of Buffalo retain customers or try to exceed expectation?
How does the City of Buffalo manage complaints and bring issues to resolution?
How does the City of Buffalo measure, analyze and improve performance through the use of data and information at all levels of the organization?
How does the City of Buffalo use comparative data to measure its performance?
How does the City of Buffalo use the voice of the customer to support organizational and strategic decision-making and innovation?
How does the City of Buffalo share best-practices from other cities?
How does the City of Buffalo build and manage its knowledge assets?
How does the City of Buffalo assure accuracy, integrity, reliability, timeliness, security and confidentiality in the data, information and knowledge it manages?
How does the City of Buffalo make sure the hardware and software it sued to manage information has the reliability, security and user friendliness required?
How does the City of Buffalo assess the capability and capacity of the workforce?
How does the City of Buffalo recruit and hire new workforce members?
How does the City of Buffalo manage the workforce to achieve desired outcomes, customer satisfaction, accomplishment of mission and vision and strategic objectives?
How does the City of Buffalo reinforce a customer focus through the workforce?
How does the City of Buffalo prepare it’s workforce for changes?
How does the City of Buffalo engage the workforce to build job satisfaction?
How does the City of Buffalo foster a culture of open communication?
How does the City of Buffalo encourage a high-performance workforce?
How does the City of Buffalo design and manage its work systems?
How does the City of Buffalo control the overall cost of its work systems?
What are the key processes managed by the City of Buffalo?
How does the City of Buffalo incorporate new technology into its key processes?
How does the City of Buffalo manage its supply chain?
How does the City of Buffalo perform process improvement to reduce variation and error?
How does the City of Buffalo reduce waste and non-value-added costs in its processes?
How does the City of Buffalo track and trend its performance, from a perspective of effectiveness (meeting the customer requirements) or efficiency (cost of services provided)?
What evidence is there of action taken in response to any tracking or trending of performance, from an effectiveness or efficiency perspective?
What are the current figures on customer satisfaction at the City of Buffalo?
How does the City of Buffalo incorporate these figures into the way it develops or manages key processes, services or other activities?
How do these figures affect future plans, strategies or actions?
What are the current levels of workforce capacity or capability?
What are the current levels of workforce health, safety and security?
What are the current levels of workforce engagement and satisfaction with the environment at City Hall or other City-run departments, offices, locations?
What are the current levels of actual performance for leaders and their ability to communicate?
What are the current levels of actual performance for leaders and their ability to meet ethical expectations, societal responsibilities and legal compliance?
What are the current levels of actual performance for leaders and their ability to manage the finances associated with Cit
y Hall and costs and revenues associated with Buffalo?
y Hall and costs and revenues associated with Buffalo?
Is the City of Buffalo gaining or loosing market share in terms of residents, businesses, agencies lost, gained or retained?
Do the results and outcomes reflect a connection between strategy, workforce, customer, operations and leadership?
Is it time for a new Mayor of Buffalo?
There you have it. 101 Questions any citizen or businessperson or organizational leader can ask themselves in order to assess the state of affairs in the City of Buffalo.
You may not agree with many of these questions, but aren’t there at least a few that really resonate? Which ones mean the most to you?
I’d like to hear from you, including the questions that you feel are the most important; where there is the biggest gap between your expectations for a City of Buffalo and the actual circumstances.
We can’t fix everything that’s wrong with the City of Buffalo, but this list can help us identify perhaps six key strategic themes, based on a consensus (more than a majority, but not quite a unanimous) picture of what matters to all of us here.
Tell me the three questions that you really think we need to answer.
Your input will drive a new strategic plan for the City of Buffalo and lead to measurable objectives we can put in place in January of 2014. We can report on the actual outcomes for these six key strategic themes and their objectives, showing real progress.
We can have a city that is as good a place to live as any in the USA within four years and we can have one of America’s best places to live in twelve years.
More than 8 out of 10 Buffalonians are less than satisfied with City Hall and the current Mayor of Buffalo.
It all starts with your three most burning questions from the List of 101.
Include your first name and email and you will receive a weekly update on the analysis of inputs from citizens like you who are tired of not having your expectations met. By January 1, 2013, we will have a draft New Strategic Plan for the City of Buffalo that will ensure a focus on you, the customer citizen, the City of Buffalo workforce, operational excellence, real leadership, real performance and most of all, results!
These questions are based on a set of quality criteria created by the Malcolm Baldrige team at NIST.
Organizations for 25 years all around the globe have been using these criteria to provide excellence in leadership, strategic planning, customer and workforce satisfaction, but most of all, results! But it works for non-profits, healthcare, manufacturing, education and even, yes, government!