The Fine Line Between Efficiency and Fatigue

efficiency_smallAs we begin to enter the process of formulating our 2016 budget (our fiscal year is January 1), we carefully analyze the need for staffing.  As you can imagine, the biggest single cost within our annual operating budget are those associated with personnel.  That’s no surprise since we are in the business of service delivery.  Oddly stated, our Product is Service.  As a member of the management team since 2001, I have participated in many, many conversations about efficiency and the delivery of service.  Our entire organization works together on a very regular basis to seek opportunities to merge positions, share responsibilities, cross-train; and do all of this while still delivering a high quality level of service.  In the early 2000’s when I started my career with Auburn Hills, I remember that our budgeted headcount was one hundred eighty full time staff positions.  We of course compliment that with a number of permanent part time staff; and seasonal staff that primarily support our Community Center, DPW, and golf course.  The one hundred eighty back then included Library staff, and they too have streamlined their numbers in recent years.  Today, the City has one hundred seventy full time positions budgeted, and is currently operating at one hundred fifty seven.  So what do we accomplish with one hundred fifty seven people?  Police and Police Dispatch (24/7/365), Fire & EMS (24/7/365), DPW (roads, sewer, water, parks and grounds, forestry, facilities), Community Development (Building, Planning, Zoning, Code Enforcement, Economic Development) City Clerk, Treasurer, Assessing, I.T., Finance, H.R., Recreation, Senior Services, Fieldstone Golf Club, Community Relations and City Manager’s office.  So when you do all of that with so few people, this means that many people are wearing many hats and that makes each and every member of the Team highly valuable because they are responsible for a wide variety of tasks.  And when you create that level of efficiency, you must remember the fatigue factor.  While it may be a source of pride to brag about all the services we provide with so few people, we have to remember that at some point, our staff can become weary.  That can lead to a whole host of other challenges.  For the record, no one is whining.  Well, maybe a little here and there.  But our staff, particularly post-2008, has taken up the challenge of continuing to deliver all of the services we have always delivered with a whole lot less people, and they have done it willingly and without drama.  It’s easy to criticize government at all levels, even at the local level.  We get that.  It’s always in fashion.  But we see our Auburn Hills local government as “not your typical local government” and we think we prove that day in and day out.  Are we perfect?  No way.  Do we strive for perfection?  You bet we do.  Continue reading “The Fine Line Between Efficiency and Fatigue”

The Fine Line Between Efficiency and Fatigue

It’s OK to Say “I Don’t Know” When You’re Prepared

I’ve been in the workforce since I was fourteen.  Let me see, that’s . . . . well, never mind.  A long time ago.  I have worked for all types of people, and one character that I always admired were those who admitted that they didn’t know the answer to something that was being asked.  Now that might sound obvious to many that you shouldn’t give an answer to something that you don’t know, but I’ve had a few bosses who thought they always had to have an answer.  That kind of shoot-from-the-hip philosophy concerns me in my role as City Manager, particularly since many of the answers I need to give people hinge on public policy decisions that impact their lives.  So, when I don’t know the answer to something, I simply say “I don’t know” and then work quickly to get the answer.

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On Wednesday, June 3rd, the Auburn Hills DPW held two informational sessions for citizens regarding the reconstruction of North Squirrel Road.  Our staff did an exceptional job of presenting the information about the project, including the project schedule, changes in road design, landscape additions, and the list goes on and on.  For most of the project period, North Squirrel Road from Walton Boulevard to Dutton will be open NORTHBOUND only.  This led to a couple of very good and commonsense questions from our citizens.   “How will the mail get delivered”?  We didn’t know.  “How will the trash be picked up”?  We didn’t know. 

Nothing is more awkward in a public presentation than being stumped.  But you can imagine that our staff was so focused on every detail of the issues directly related to the successful reconstruction of this very busy road, they weren’t thinking about mail delivery and trash collection.  So, they did what they had to do.  They told the audience that they didn’t know and then they immediately went to work to figure it out.  The staff was so prepared to present this project, that they didn’t think of a couple of things that were not construction-specific.  That’s why I say it’s OK to say “I don’t know” when you’re prepared.  If the staff had not been prepared to discuss the specifics of the project in the detail for which they did, I would not have been pleased with the outcome of the presentation.  But because the presentation was so well executed and complete with details, I couldn’t help but conclude that one or two things are bound to get missed.  I mean really, is anyone so good that they get absolutely everything right?  So we chose to say “We don’t know” in lieu of shooting-from-the-hip and coming back later to make a correction.  That just creates further communication chaos. 

Here’s what I can assure you as your City Manager.  Our staff, along with our consultants, will work tirelessly to make the North Squirrel Road project as painless as possible to our residents and those who travel through our community during construction.  We will monitor the project daily, adjust as needed, and respond promptly to the concerns of our citizens.  You have my promise.  In return, we ask our citizens to be patient and to remember that there is no easy way to complete this project without disruption and inconvenience.  Our goal however, is to minimize that disruption and inconvenience to the best of our ability.  As a staff Team, we plan to do that.


Tom Tanghe, City Manager

It’s OK to Say “I Don’t Know” When You’re Prepared