Friday, January 28, 2011

Integrated planning - it’s all about working together

Just another catch cry?
We hear a lot about integrated planning.  What is it?  I checked that out with the authority on everything, Wikipedia. 
the Integrated Planning System is a structured planning framework adapted from the US military's Joint Operational Planning and Execution System:. 
This isn’t particularly helpful. But it does remind us that modern planning has rigid, hierarchical military origins.
So I looked elsewhere.  In business defined integrated planning as
A joint planning exercise that ensures participation of all stakeholders and affected departments.  Its objective is to examine all economic, social, and environmental costs and benefits, in order to determine most appropriate option and to plan a suitable course of action.
This is better, introducing ideas of collaboration and cross-disciplinary analysis.
How do we see integrated planning in New Zealand? 
According to the NZ Transport Agency,
Integrated transport ...  takes account of and connects [transport systems, the form of urban development and how land is used] [and] helps ensure that development of the transportation network and land use is coordinated.  
Issues traditionally treated separately should be considered jointly.  The NZTA provides a toolkit for doing integrated planning, containing case studies and guidelines to help practitioners align transport and land use outcomes.
The New Zealand Planning Institute also offers a toolkit.  This rolls up spatial plans, asset manage-ment plans, planning balance sheets, financial plans, and the like.  Presumably integration happens when we get all our plans lined up, an exercise focused on procedure.  
Working together
It’s unlikely that integration can be delivered simply using a toolkit. It is more important to focus on outcomes rather than prescribe methods.  Case studies are helpful for lessons learnt.  But integrated outcomes cannot be defined simply by imitation or documentation. 
In fact, they rely on getting people who would not normally do so to collaborate. 
It’s a good idea to focus first on what objectives the relevant agencies and their personnel share.  Getting this to happen takes leadership.  In cities, shared objectives may relate to large projects, urban form, economic revival, community development, ecological restoration, and so forth.  
The challenge is not to make ever more complex plans, but to create the environment for collaboration through which hard-to-achieve objectives are met by working together.
Getting results through leadership and collaboration ...
This blog was sparked by a recent Listener story about Dame Judith Mayhew Jonas, an expat Kiwi who led a revamp in London’s West End.  She did this not by writing plans and spending public money – although there has to be some of that – but by working with a range of stakeholders “from retailers, to police to transport chiefs to the mayor”, getting them to agree on what needs to be done.  The thing I love” she says “is getting public, private and voluntary to work together, taking the best of each sector and getting them to knit together”.
There are some interesting themes here.  Dame Judith got people out of their silos.  And she worked across three sectors, government, business, and civil society, the latter being individuals and organisations working voluntarily towards social ends.  
How often do we overlook the capacity of civil society?  Too often planners assume that community consultation covers off community interests.  Perhaps we should be thinking about civil society as a partner in the development of our communities, and a key element in our constitution.
Dame Judith also emphasised action – getting things done, not just talking about them.  If that means working with voluntary associations or community groups, so much the better.
Getting past adversarial planning
There is overlap between this and CityScope’s recommended approach to integrated planning for large urban projects.  Our review of experience in large urban projects suggested that leadership and governance to enable different stakeholders to pursue shared goals was the key to success.   
Currently we rely too much on process and adversarial conflict resolution in planning, and on regulating for what cannot be done.  This may be necessary if we have widely different objectives.  But it would be far better to focus on plans that can be agreed upon, achieving and acting on consensus outcomes, while resolving details of difference through mediation and even compromise.
People may have to agree to differ on smaller issues so they can deal with the big ones.  They may have to work outside their professional institutions, to work across departments and organisations, and in doing so back off institutionalised values and ideological clichés.
Can we restructure our way to collaboration?
Perhaps that is what restructuring Auckland local government was about: merging eight councils to create more a collaborative, less professionally or geographically hide-bound body? 
But is that enough if people’s old values and professional affiliations persist in the new structure?  A new organisation needs a new culture, and a sense of a common purpose that goes beyond feel-good documents.  Otherwise, the old inefficiencies and prejudices persist. 
Integration and culture
So how do we achieve the organisational culture necessary for integrated plans and outcomes? 
Well, another New Zealander has had some quiet success at this.  Gregg Innes has developed a business bringing about cultural shifts in US local governments.  Councils there have much wider responsibilities.  They have to work against the inefficiencies created by departmental silos and professional patch protection. 
Greg has successfully developed and applied techniques to counter this, techniques that help shift cultures so they are more responsive to wider organisational objectives and work together despite different backgrounds.  But that’s another story.
It’s important at this stage simply to acknowledge that today’s urban areas and issues are complex and conflicted.  Change is not linear – things don’t proceed smoothly down a clearly marked path.  But let’s not push complicated processes under the guise of integrated planning when commitment and cooperation are most needed.
Rather than lock ourselves into over-complex planning methods we should perhaps consider how professions, organisations, and people can simply be encouraged to work together across local government and civil society.  It’s not a matter of scale.  Bigger units of government will not be more effective.  Restructuring alone won’t do the trick.  Overlapping plans won’t carry the day.  It’s fundamentally a matter of sustaining the leadership and culture required to get the cooperation necessary to deal with the big projects and big issues.


Mark said...

I was involved with the CBD strategy - where I spent a lot of time with various stakeholders - getting their views of trends/problems/solutions.

We thens et up the CBD Board which had an ongoign role in reviewing/recommending projects, and a focused staff team to delive rthem. It also included the CBD targeted rate of some $120m extra CBD businesses would contribute. The Board has worked well - with retail/property council/resdients/hotel/universities all represented, and working well together.

All the CBD improvements then flowed from this funding, and this group. In some ways it works in the background, and the public won't have an appreciation of how much a multi-party group can achieve.

I would have liked to have seen this model for the CBD and waterfront combined, as it does balance off the staff control issues.

Phil McDermott said...

Sounds good, Mark. Involving all the stakeholders across interests as well as disciplines can avoid group-think, where a bunch of like-minded individuals with a relatively narrow sphere of experience end up reinforcing what are often pre-conceived ideas without recourse to their wider impacts and practicality. This is one reason why making the connection across CBD and waterfront issues as you would have liked it also makes sense. Creating groups with two narrow a focus, especially if they are built around people with over-lapping "specialist" knowledge, can limit creativity and reduce the likelihood of integrated outcomes.