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We are excited to have you with us today on this leader gov podcast. My name is Bill Stark, and me along with my, our co founder, Tim Fenbert. My partner we love serving local governments through podcasts, and really helping expose local government leaders to other ideas from other local government leaders, and other experts. And today we're going to be talking about strategic planning, and how to get your team engaged in the strategic planning process. And so we're going to look at that we have a wonderful contributor with us today, Dr. Keith Clarksdale. He is the Director of Strategic Planning and Performance Management for Florida's Palm Beach County. So lovely part of the world. Great to have you with us. Keith, how are you? Hey, Bill, how
are you? Thanks. Thank you for having me. I'm excited to have this conversation with you.
Yeah, yeah. Well, you know, just to kind of finish out a little bit about your background, I know that you recently completed your MBA very recently. But early in your career, you were in private industry, not local government. You were with Dec Digital Equipment Corporation. Up in the northeast, I guess I see now why you came to Florida, right? Escape all those that snow. So I think you were in the area of operational excellence at DEC. Yes. And then after that, for 12 years or so after that you were a management consultant up in the Boston area, and then made your waist out ultimately to Palm Beach County. So of those to unlock. I would love just to ask you a little bit off script here. Do you remember a leader that you had either at deck or at your consulting firm that you really admired? And what was that trait that they displayed? That stuck with you that really helped you become a better leader? Just curious if you would throw that out for us? You know?
Yeah, I think what brought it full circle for me was when I worked with Digital Equipment Corporation as a quality engineer. And it allowed me because I was quality engineer, it allowed me to visit all of our suppliers, and to begin to assess their process, their quality and what have you. And when I got tapped on the shoulder to buy a massive consulting firm, they said basically, case, we want you to do that same thing for clients, we want you to be able to go into multiple clients. Use your sort of analytical skills and business acumen to analyze what kind of problem they have. And solve the problem for them. And when they when they when he gave me that pitch on mastery consulting, I was so and there was a particular director, who was really good at it. I mean, he not only did he have a tenacity to make a difference, he really wanted the client to succeed, and to, he really wanted to help them fix a problem that they could not fix internally. Now, obviously, sometimes there's been some comments like, you guys know what the problem is. But it's very difficult to create change from within some time. And you need something to be able to bring somebody in to ignite that fire. And to tell you, okay, hey, let's do things differently. And so that I think that leader that that director, I saw the fire in him, and I want to be like that.
Wow, yeah, great. You know, and it's amazing how we remember people from years and years and years ago, based on what they did that was special and having that passion, having that fire in the belly. You know, if we don't have that, Keith is just, it's hard to show up to work every morning. It just, it just, it just gets gets hard to make a difference. And so appreciate you sharing that story. Hey, you know, we're going to talk about strategic planning today. And I want to I just had a few questions I wanted to ask you, because you've done this for a long time, particularly in the planning area. And I really, we work with a lot of cities and counties around the country. A lot of department heads are listening. So they may be thinking of strategic planning, maybe more from a departmental perspective. But we all know that to some degree, we need to plan it, we need to know where we're going. And so these strategic plans, you know, we don't want to hang our hat on all the time because obviously we have to execute but but we do need to stop and pause as a team and do something Planning from time to time. So as you think about local governments, what do you perceive the challenge today for local governments in this area of strategic planning?
Well, I mean, this is this is interesting, because one of the things, especially coming from private industry, to the public industry. When I came on board here in Palm Beach County, we have 35 plus departments, we have four assistant county administrators, we have seven commissioners, we have 1.5 million residents. And so when you think about strategic planning, it's like, okay, how do you put all this together and make it same for everyone that's involved? So one of the first things I had to do was I had to meet with all 35 different departments. And I asked very specific me four questions. What are the strengths? What are the weaknesses? What are the opportunities and threats of the county? And the challenge? I mean, what was interesting was the number one answer was we operate in silos. Now all of them said, they look, they look great. As a vertical, they do great individual, they do great in their in their lane. But in terms of work with each other, it just wasn't happening. So I think the biggest challenge to steppers to strategy, any strategy is how do you get a collective impact? How do you bring everybody together? To work towards the common vision mission goals and objectives of of the entity?
Do you know how many cities roughly are in Palm Beach County? round numbers? Is it 10 or 20? Cities? Or oh,
my gosh, we have 39 municipalities? Okay.
39? Yeah, and I just wonder, even in small communities, you know, we we tend to still go back into those silos. And so it sounds like you've identified kind of the heart of the issue around getting things done. Do you find it common that there aren't? goals at the strategic level that departments can work on together? Are those problems there? And they just don't know it? Or are they not taking time to, to to create the goals that bringing people together?
Well, it's interesting, because my role for the county is say there's there's 35 different departments within within the county. So you got community services, public safety, risk management, public affairs, youth services, you name it. They all have a mission and a set of goals for their, for their entity for their silo. But when I had to create a strategic plan, and we came up with six strategic priorities, I then had to map what all of the departments were doing to those six strategic priorities. And interesting enough sequences, housing, homelessness. Well, you Services is a department. They're addressing housing, homelessness for the use of community services, addressing the Department of Housing, economic development, development, they're addressing it, but they only addressing it from different vantage points. Parks and recreations. Majority of our homeless live in the parks. So that department, you know, has to talk to the community service department. Yeah, you served. Yeah. So yeah, they they have the same goal, but they were working on the same goal. Together.
Yes. Yeah. How did you develop the six, strategic focus area? How did you all come about it was that through the SWOT analysis that all that bubbled up?
No. So so we the SWOT analysis, identify the number one issue was with silos. But when I came on board, my division, the strategic plan for its management was brand new on the very first. So I asked, I said, Well, can you show me and I started going around what have all been the to the priorities for the county for the last 3455 years. And someone gave me a list of like 13 to 16 to change your priorities that that were developed back in 29 2009, or something like that. So what I did in my very first workshop to the Board of County Commissioners and to the 30 fire departments, I said, How do we bolt down from this to this? And I took a crack at what the I think a good number is six. Yeah. And then so I took a crack at converting it down to six and then with some a massage and during that workshop and some some changes as their edits, we all settled on. Yes, these are the six strategic priorities.
Okay, and are there there are goals falls under each of those six. Is that correct?
Exactly in e cig has a mission so far as its economic development, housing, homelessness, environmental protection, infrastructure, public safety, and then substance use and behavioral disorders. What I did was created a mission for each, and then a set of goals and objectives for each, and then said, okay, all 35 departments, if you currently spend any time, money or resources, today, on any of those priorities, I need to have somebody from your team, that's from somebody from your department, on a team.
Okay. And that's where I want to go net, because I think that what you have done creating these cross departmental teams, bringing people together that have some input, some perspective, some they touched that problem, they touched that goal in some way differently, but they are touching it. And you you brought them together, and you kind of get them on the same page rowing in the same direction. Can you tell me how, how that's going how it evolved. Because I think there are a lot of other cities and counties around the country, even large departments of Public Works Department, who could take somebody from wastewater, somebody from engineering somebody from water, somebody from stormwater, and put them on a team to solve a public works problem. So what you're about to describe, I think a lot of people could utilize this, this idea and get some good results from it. So could you just share a bit about the history and how you're functioning today?
Yeah, one thing I'll tell you, Bill, I've had to pull out every toolkit I've learned over the last 25 years. I mean, all of the operational excellence team building. There are four stages of Team forming, storming, norming, performing, having a different attitude. What's it like to address different cultures diversity on a team. This was countercultural to Palm Beach County, let me just say that. There used to be a stay in your lane. You work in this department, you're loyal to this department. So what I what I did is I actually had a, I broke each team out and I had a full day orientation. And I just let it all Timi forming, storming norming. What is Steve Jobs say about Tammy? I had to infuse in their mind, this new concept of breaking down the silos and working together for a common goal. And I had to show them listen, if you have if you have a homeless problem, where are they at? They're in the parks, parks, I need you on this date. Okay, where do they go for internet and get cleaned up, they go to the libraries, libraries, I need you on this team, community service, and we can't separate the community, the families versus in the you. And understand you guys are two different apartments. But sometimes you get whole families. I need you both on the team. So it's a constant. It's been a constant sort of, I've had to be a cheerleader, a coach and facilitator in the fuser introducing. And this is government. So I know it's evolved in terms of like Lean Six Sigma type, type. But a lot of folks in the trenches have never heard of the concepts. You know, metrics and key key performance indicators and team high performance teams. So I've had it's been a journey. In April be five years for me. We're just now to the point where the teams are performing. We went through the for me, we went through the storming where, you know, people didn't get along, you know, you had to work through all of that. Then it's like now they're getting awards for what they're getting. Wow, Heiko, National Association of Counties, they get awards by State Safety Council awards, because the public safety team was like, Oh, God, you man, you guys have cross department team with 15 departments all working on safety. Yeah. So now in what you I just sort of let we have the leverage every single ward at it and take a take a step back is showcase them. I put them up there. And when we have proclamations, I'm like, we need the proclamation is Earth Day. Okay, environmental protection team. I need you in front of Board of County Commissioners to serve the Earth Day and all the work you do for Vironment.
So, hey, hey, so, so we're gonna talk about culture in just a minute and how this is kind of affected the culture, which it sounds like it's fairly positive. But before that, you must have had some pretty supportive leadership. You know, because what you're doing in a city in a small city, I would say you're functioning like a city manager, you're pulling people together. You're you're kind of forcing them to sit down together, collaborate, you're teaching them you're like a teacher and so forth. So in a small government, the activities you just described would be probably something a city manager would do. Or in larger city, larger county would be a large department head. But somewhere along the way, you had to have some leadership that bought into this idea of breaking these silos down. And how did you do that? How did you get get their buy in and get their support? And how was that helpful to you?
You know, I, you know, and this year, I've been extremely blessed, because the leadership has been, you know, our County Administrator believed in me, believed in this process, but it doesn't hurt to have some pilots or success stories. When I came on board, the first job I had, when I came on board and get introduced to public life, I was hired to do the same job, the new guy on the block for palm Tran, which is our transit agency. So there's 35 different departments, palm Tran, which is our transit agency is just one of them. So I got in the door as a temporary employee at Palm Tran. And eventually, and when the executive director came around, you know, he's wondering, well, who's this dispatcher? Like, that's where to tie in a bow tie and what have you. And I just whispered in, hey, listen, I came from Boston. I'm an engineer, I've done the operation. If anything comes about, please let me know. Fast forward, he created a performance management director position to establish performance management and strategic plan for palm Tran. I did that for 12, I guess, 14 months. And his boss who is the County Administrator for all 35 departments, the entire county, so I want that position for the county. And I interview for it. So I had established nine cross bit cross functional teams at Palm Tran. And a scorecard and key performance indicators what happened? So we just trapped like, oh, shoot, no, I had to win. But I got the position to do it.
Yeah, you know, I'm curious. When people are asked to be on one of these cross functional teams, I would imagine that there, some people might react negatively, like, oh, boy, what is this? Okay, another committee? What do we need another committee for
all in total? You got?
Volunteer? So you got that aspect of it? Like, okay, well, what is this, you know, and, but but as you say storming norming. Over time, they begin to see oh, wow, we can actually affect change, we can actually make something move and make the needle move. And that's got to affect the culture, the attitude, the the atmosphere of the county, the staff, they're at Palm Beach County. And so could you just kind of share what you've observed how you've seen these people change and embrace this and, and what that's done for your, the atmosphere, that the culture there in the staff,
you know, is interesting, because before the reward system, and the reward structure was all based on an individual performing, were department before we got over another department. Now you're actually seeing rewards and recognition for teaming, and people coming together. Not only that, I had to convince hours, they had to convince a lot of folks that this will be good for you. It's going to be good for your career, and what have you. So we've seen a lot of promotions, from team leaders and people who have been on teams, because now they're able to speak to a broader set of issues across account. But the other thing is, is job enhancement. So many people in public sector have been at a job for so long, or been working for the city or the county for when I went around and I was like, Guys, I mean, I had no idea people work since they were 17. And now they're, you know, 40 5060 they retired at 50 Sacred December. So they make a lot of our Monday had been had been Monday and they're like, no, no energy, this. This has created a spark and people's job. Because now you know, I do this for my family. But I get a chance to take, go to a team meeting. And it's just created dynamic. That's, that's exciting. Now, eventually, they get to the point where they Okay, I can't take this anymore. So I have learned over now into our fifth year, we rotate it team leaders. Some people have gotten better jobs, people get promoted. So they've actually brought it's like, okay, I'm introducing someone so they got to be my rep but the representative now so It is it's been contagious. And it's, it's I found to be intentional because I think even in terms of I've seen, we have something called the Golden Palm awards. And any person can recognize or be recommended for a Golden Palm award at the end of the year. It's a big, it's a, it's a monitor. Now you starting to see Golden Palm awards for teams. Collaborating, because it's like, I gotta change the reward structure. Because you got to incent incentivize people to work together.
Yeah, yeah. And I think that this idea, such a powerful idea, because it does break down those silos brings people together, they probably have a lot more in common than they thought. And they can definitely help each other because they're kind of experts in their own area. I suspect that the same sort of teaming approach could be used way down in the in the department level, right. Sanitation, and again, stormwater and just bringing together a couple people from each department to solve a common problem. Question, one last question I have for you just kind of a structural question. The six priorities that you have underneath them are several goals, important strategic goals under each. So how many of these cross functional cross departmental teams do you have operating at any given time? Is it just sticks? Or is it many more than that?
No. So we have six cross department teams, when we first kicked them off, they were face to face. Now their hybrid of virtual and, and face to face. So those are the six those are the six strategic priorities. Now, interesting enough, though, like I said, we got 35 different departments, each department has multiple divisions. So like engineering has road and bridge. Landscaping, traffic, and they were silo. So now departments, I kicked off, they said, Can you come and kick our cross? No cross division teams within my department. So a lot of the departments have mirrored the umbrella sort of like what Okay, um, Tran. So there are other teams but their department? Yes, focus, like victim services, Justice Services, animal care, control, they emergency operations, but now they you know, they work together as teams as well.
Okay, thank you for clarifying that. Because I think it's so important. You all are a large agency, you're a large county, a lot of the people listening are with smaller cities and counties. And the idea of just taking the same concept you have and just applying it down to your department level. And there you can deal with lots of individual goals with individual teams.
I will say this bill, that the challenge that I see ahead of me, is cross county, within 39 municipalities. Yeah, because I've said it. I said this the other day. So if I go to another summit, and the municipalities are not there, I'm walking out. There's, you know, we got we, it takes a village, if you're going to solve some of these problems, it can't be the county here and the city here, or the cities here, you see what I'm saying? Yeah, I don't know what it is. I don't know if it's just just this county, or with not Utah. But for some reason. They, it's I don't know if it's competition. I don't want you tell me what it is. Because I don't know why we'd all come together and saw these worlds. Yeah.
Yeah, I think that's a pretty that's a pretty deep, that's a pretty deep answer somewhere up in there. I don't, you know, it's a mystery. I think that at a staff operating level, there really probably could be and should be that type of cooperation. I think that when we get when we see it as a budgetary thing, and turf matter if your turf, your money, my money. You know, I see where people are going to get protective, and probably naturally, but staff to staff operating at level operating level, I see a lot of reasons why that could be successful. So anyway, huge topic, we probably ought to explore that some time. Just as we sort of wrap up here. Could you just, as you know, again, the folks listening to this podcast are cities, counties, departments, some of them taxing commissions and this kind of what what advice would you leave with them with respect to strategic planning, maybe how they should go about it or, you know, just the any any sort of thoughts? On the effectiveness of the planning, and this whole idea of having these cross departmental teams, sort of final thoughts?
Well, I'm gonna say something that you that most of them probably, it has not occurred to a lot of folks that work for public public sector. When I was in the private sector, and we were consultants, we were also called in to fix their processes and technology. And it's streamlined. There's three major components, process systems and people. We've always focused on the process and the systems change changed the narrative, focus on the people, is very hard to implement Lean Six Sigma, total quality management, Kanban, key performance indicators with a bunch of disgruntled people, or people who feel like they're not appreciated, or people feel like that there's no empathy, or that you don't value them. And the pandemic has brought this out. That reason why, you know, people used to say, no, people, people said, The Great resignation, I call it the great, I'm not going back to that. The Great, I'm not going back to that, where I'm not where I don't feel valued. I don't feel empathy, I don't feel you care for me care about me, I'm going to work remotely, I'm going to find a job where I can just stay by myself. Focus on the people, the teams allow me to focus on people. Yeah. Because, you know, when we first kicked off the team, just like, let's just go around the room and see how what do you do? How you How are you doing? How do you contribute to housing and homelessness? People just want they, you really want to know, you know, and Jack Welch said, Listen, you pay me for my hand, you can have my mind for free. You know, we're paying these people, but we're not asking them to do critical thinking, to share their thoughts, the ideas, the innovation, to show how they care, or you see him as a, so completely focused on the environment, we use is very hard to do this work in a toxic environment. You got to change, you know, and and Minecraft requires a lot of training. A lot of using people like yourself and leadership go, I truly recommend people tapping into your your, your your leadership, your webinars, your training, because your focus on public sector. And that's the other thing is, it's I've come to notice that it is the not invented here syndrome, or what I do know about government. You know, I remember the first presentation I made, it's like, I made the presentation said, think like a fortune 500 company, act like a public service company. And they say what do you mean by that? I said, things like process improvement, operational excellence, employee evaluation, employee rewards, and all that kind of stuff, and the environment. But be a public servant. But do it all for the residents to for the ultimate good of the residents. See the difference between the two in a public sector was all for the money. Right. But in the private sector, I mean, I mean, the private sector and public sector, it's for the residents, we do what we do for the residents. So you don't want to lose sight of that. Yeah, but you do it. There's no reason why we can't be great. Operationally. Yeah, yeah.
Yeah. Wow. Well, thank you for sharing that. I love what you're saying. About, let's get back to the people. Because when you pull these teams together, and and invite people into the process, and then let them talk, let them engage, let them contribute, be curious about what they have to stay. When we do that, as leaders. That's what opens up this new culture. That's what opens up people giving incremental effort going above and beyond. And if you're really hitting on something very, very important. So it's not just a strategic plan. It's actually a way to alter the culture of your local government and
culture. And I, you know, I was thinking about this. And I'm like, let me just type in culture and strategy. And Peter Drucker came up and said, culture eats strategy for breakfast. You could have a great strategy, but Koecher would eat it for breakfast. And then, you know, there's like, you gotta wait to two. You got to have they both got to be green.
That's right. That's right. And I like the way you've tied it together, though. Ultimately, let's have a strategic plan. Let's be disciplined, let's be focused, but the way we do it, the way we address it is through these teams to these people through collaboration through appreciating each other's perspective and you really kind of combine the two and it's a really wonderful thing and so I really appreciate your your being with us today and hearing some of your your background. I'll I assume people could probably find you at the Palm Beach County website somewhere if they have some questions
for our full size. In our strategic planning, performance management, you can actually see the pictures of the team's their presentations, their videos, they actually have them presenting a full line of videos. So it's all on the website. And then anybody can find me on LinkedIn, Dr. Keith Windscale on LinkedIn. I'm happy. I'm always sharing knowledge, trying to share knowledge. And I'm also trying to learn, as you can see, next month, I graduated with my MBA at six at the age 60. So I'm always learning. That's great, man. It's been good spending time with you. All right. Thank you, Bill. Yeah, you bet.