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Saturday
Jan222011

Placemaking and Placemanagement

 

 “Place management” has been practiced in various parts of government in Australia1. Mostly, place managers have been appointed in ad hoc and essentially short term positions to deal with crisis situations – such as an area with a high crime rate. However, several organizations have undergone fundamental restructure with a view to making place management a central responsibility and putting place managers at the core of the organization, rather than the periphery.
 
Place Management is a species of Outcome Management
Inputs produce outputs, which lead to outcomes2. Organizations should strive to be efficient in the production of outputs and ensure that the resultant outcomes are effectively achieving the longer-term objectives sought by the organization and its stakeholders. Outcomes can be divided into either system or place outcomes.
System outcomes are public policy outcomes that do not have a strong place focus –
catchments, economic development, learning, healthiness, accessibility and the like.
 
Places are where the consequences of systems finish up. A place manager is an officer who has been given clear responsibility and accountability ‘to do what is needed’ to achieve the outcomes for a place3. Place management is a species of outcome management. Allocating responsibility for place management provides an officer who can mediate the consequences for places of the application of system policies.
 
Contrast with Input and Output Responsibilities
 
 State and local governments were organised and funded to provide specialist
inputs or outputs. Most State and local government organizations were designed in colonial days4 to facilitate the employment of particular professionals. This is why they have been described as ‘guild’ or ‘silo’ organizations. Until recently, entry into these organizations was restricted to those with the particular professional qualification - foresters in the Forest Commission, road engineers in Roads, town planners in planning departments, and so on.
 
The professional qualification was ‘essential’ rather than merely ‘desirable’.
Although managerial positions now are advertised to permit people with a wider range of skills to apply, the guild cultures tend to live on, which is not surprising given there has been relatively little fundamental change to the nature of the traditional organizations and their traditional outputs. In governments organised and funded to produce inputs or outputs it is difficult for anyone, other than a central government agency, to be responsible for the achievement of complex outcomes – such as the functioning and quality of a place. Each guild organization will tend to pursue solutions that reflect its particular specialised output. The road agency will push a road solution to accessibility; whatever the issue, the town planning agency will usually suggest the making of a new plan or set of development controls.
 
The inability to allocate clear responsibility for outcomes tends to lead to a proliferation
Of top-down interdepartmental committees and reports. Unfortunately, this type of ‘joined-up government’ tends to exist only at the top and probably only for as long as there is strong political support. In the end, someone will be needed to take responsibility for achieving recommendations reached by report writers or ‘co-ordination’ meetings5. In the absence of real authority for implementation, anything that requires complex solutions tends not to happen. More paving can be achieved, but significant community building is difficult to sustain.
 
This paper argues that moving from the traditional input or output forms of management to outcomes management, while useful for all levels of government, can especially advantage local government. Being a single corporate body with a wide range of functions, local government can improve its effectiveness and efficiency by moving, firstly, to identify clearly the core outcomes it is pursuing and, secondly, to arrange its resources so that the achievement of those outcomes is managed.
 
Models for Outcome Management
Two models of outcome management are presented:
Where there has been a substantial change from a guild structured organization, such
as the traditional local government body, to an outcome focused organisation7,
Where an ad hoc place manager position has been added to a traditional guild
structure.
 
The Appointment of Ad Hoc Place Managers
An alternative to a fundamental restructure along outcomes lines is to appoint Place Managers as ad hoc positions in the central part of government. This has occurred in recent years within the Government. The advantage of the appointment of ad hoc Place Manager is he or she can be appointed to an existing structure without the need for fundamental organisational change. The disadvantage is that the positions seldom survive for long.
 
Structure
 
Most Place Managers have been appointed in response to a crisis. Essentially the input/output structure remains unaltered and an outcome manager is appointed to ‘project manage’ particular outcome, such as a place.
 
There are a number of issues to be resolved:
To which of the existing divisions/departments is the place management responsibility
Allocated For example, in local government the case can be made for the Place Managers to be with the Planning, the Engineering/Works, or the Community
 
Development Divisions.
Even a Corporate Services Division could be considered as it could provide more of a
professionally neutral home. The problem is that, whichever division/department the Place Manager is allocated to, the other professional divisions will see that person as representing that particular input or output and will seek to limit his or her role accordingly.
 
The Place Manager can be made directly responsible to the head of the Premier’s Department, but if there is more than a couple then there will be a need to employ a Manager of the Place Managers. This leads inevitably to an ‘Outcomes Division’ and the kind of significant change described in the section above.

If there is not to be a restructure, but merely the appointment of a few place managers, which places will have managers appointed to take responsibility for them? What are the selection criteria? The places that have special problems, the places with major upgrading projects….?
 
Places that do not get place managers may well feel that they are being neglected. Communities may seek to over-dramatise their situation in order to have a place manager appointed. Those that have a place manager because of special problems may work hard at not solving those problems so as not to lose their place manager.
 
The life of an outcomes officer can be a difficult in an organization designed around specialist input and outputs. If the officer overly interferes with input/output priorities, or is seen to be highly
successful, the rest of the organization is likely to resent him or her and work to sideline or abolish the position.
 
If the officer works quietly behind the scenes, letting the line officers take the credit, then the organization may start to question the worth of having a position that does not seem to add value.
 
Experience tends to show that a couple of outcome officers in a traditional input/output organization structure have an effective life of around two years, unless they are clearly responsible to, and constantly supported by, the CEO.
 
While there can be significant achievements in that time, it has to be recognised that this form of organisational reform is unlikely to be sustainable. Paradoxically, the greater the success the more likely it is that it will not be sustainable.
 
Conclusion

A move to outcomes management for places can be part of a fundamental change to the design of government, or as an ‘add-on’ to a government with a traditional input and output structure. The ‘add on’ experiments are easy to achieve and can assist in addressing a crisis situation or managing a particular program of regeneration to a place. But only fundamental change to an outcome-focused organization can achieve effective, efficient and transparent government, where there are clear responsibilities allocated for achieving, over the long term, excellent system and place outcomes.
 
Published in The Journal of Place Management and Development Vol 1 No 1 March 2008

© John Mant 2008 jm@johnmant.com
John Mant is an urban planner and retired lawyer, practicing in Sydney Australia. He has worked as a senior public servant in several Australian governments and as a management and policy consultant to a number of local and overseas governments. He has promoted the concepts of outcome and place management for many years.

Gary Hack and others on Placemaking Mar 12 Right click to download