To start, for those who may not recognize the picture above, this is a record. This used to be what we played music on. I know they are making a bit of a comeback lately but thought I would err on the side of being inclusive for the younger generation.
Now, also for the same audience, you may not have used the term "I am sounding like a broken record" before. In essence the term means you are repeating the same message over and over again but perhaps getting little uptake on what you are trying to convey.
The reason I may be a broken record lately is that I am hearing many, many stories and am participating in numerous conversations with colleagues about the austerity measures the Provincial government is employing in its budget. I certainly am still trying to empathize with those feeling anxiety around these cuts (and they are cuts - believe me). I am feeling anxious myself as I am still early in the creation of my new business, whose clients are predominantly seeing their budgets shrink and my wife is employed by a public entity whose budget is also shrinking. My message has been one of using this time of "crisis" to really look at your priorities, your services and your current levels of resources and ensure support for those areas deemed most valuable continues while being open to reallocating from areas not as relevant to achieving success in prioritized areas.
This seems to make sense to all I speak with but then I sometimes get the response that this effort I am speaking about will take time, effort and resources within that same environment. I try again to have folks see the value in going through this effort and convince them that prioritizing where your time and effort should be used, based on logic around identified goals and results, resonates with internal and external stakeholders moreso than any across the board approach. Still some see an arbitrary reduction target as the easy button and trigger this response.
To try and take another stab at a different message I submit the following. It seems to me that those impacted by the Province's budgets have two options in front of them.
BE BITTER OR BE BETTER.
The Be Bitter approach entails spending a lot of time and effort lobbying the Province for some movement towards restoring funding levels as they are or perhaps even considering factoring in growth and inflation into the go forward budgets. There would also be messaging crafted to your community explaining all the impacts and painting the Province as the bad guy when you look to completing your own budget. Although I may personally agree that these austerity measures seem rather shortsighted and have harmful impacts in many areas - I also wonder how much success will be gained from these type of Be Bitter approaches given we are early on in a Provincial mandate with a party whose message was cuts.
The Be Better approach entails using these constraints as a challenge to be conquered. Municipalities have taken up challenges like this before and been successful. The immediate one that comes to mind is recycling. Although facing some recent issues around sorting and markets for certain products the improvement in the area of recycling can largely be aimed at efforts made at a municipal level.
The challenge needing to be conquered here is to ensure we are maximizing the value we are providing citizens with budgets that are constrained from one of our biggest revenue sources - the Province. It is up to us to apply a lens of relevancy to all we currently provide in the way of services. Are these the services that our public is demanding and are they moving the needle in areas citizens have deemed most important?
We also need to flex our leadership muscles like never before. Stamina to say no to those areas/services that are not providing the value return that others are is critical at all times but most especially in times of shrinking budgets.
This leadership is required at both the administrative and political levels. Councils can no longer be given the advice that we can be all things to all people and Council's can no longer stray away from their identified priorities to satisfy the loud 2% if they are not in alignment with those priorities.
I prefer the Be Better approach. I like a culture of continuous improvement. I see the Be Better approach as one that emphasizes creating the most value, encouraging innovation and supporting priorities. It may also improve your relationship with the Province and ironically see the benefit hoped for in the Be Bitter approach - a relaxation of constraint - but due to a demonstration of value creation instead of being angry.
Take care all. Please do sign up to receive these automatically on my website. And watch for some exciting changes in the next month or so for It's Logical. I cannot wait.