Government is typically a good source of cautionary examples, not because it is necessarily worse than private organizations but rather because some of its actions are more visible to the public. In the 2017 Digital Cities Survey, Palo Alto placed 8th in its category -- cities under 75,000. When I looked at the announcement(foot#2) for what the winners in each of the 5 categories were doing to warrant this recognition, I found:
- bringing data analytics to bear (results not being mentioned implies no results worth mentioning),
- issuing directives ("issuing" implies little or no follow through much less positive results achieved),
- deployed WiFi for people unlikely to have WiFi devices (a homeless encampment),
- introduced strategic goals (there are apps that automatically generate Dilbert-esque ones),
- established a taskforce,
- scheduled a meeting (which may not have been held, much less have produced a schedule for a series of follow-up meetings),
- enabled residents to participate in decisions for which the residents didn't have adequate information to form informed opinions,
- decide to have their IT efforts support their strategic plan,
- to provide information (grocery store locations) to residents and non-profits, they decided to use a (proprietary?) Geographic Information System (GIS) instead of using a widely available system -- such a Google Maps,
- paying for professional development activities by IT staff,
- echoing the buzzwords in the survey's introduction.
Aside: Parents, if your children are learning to apply critical reading, skepticism and cynicism to the puffery that surrounds us, this announcement may provide a useful exercise.
City Hall: I thought to myself that the claims of the winning cities were all ones where City Hall has demonstrated capabilities and expertise. So how didn't we come in 8th? My hope is that some low-level manager who was assigned the task of putting together a submission for this vacuous award decided that doing anything more than was needed to report "Done" was not warranted in face of significant staff shortages.
Suggestion: Rather than treating these vanity awards as a positive, the new City Council should treat high rankings as a waste of resources and mismanagement.
City Manager won't want to tell Council: "I am please to report to you that our submission for the XYZ award failed to receive even an honorable mention." And he won't want to tell Council of winning an award because that represents a failure. By creating an lose-lose situation, we may be able to create a culture that doesn't see meaningless awards/credentials as a substitute for meaningful accomplishments.
1. Lacking crucial basic skills:
This is different from my day when employers complained that recent graduates didn't have all the skills needed to take on a specific job with little or no additional training.
2. Digital Cities Survey 2017 article from announcement:
"^Digital Cities Survey 2017 -- Winners Announced^".
An ^abbreviated index by topic and chronologically^ is available.
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