About the Author
About the Book

Program for Goal Setting
The John E. Arnold Company
The Four Futures:  What the Futurists say about the Future:  There are four possible.

This is a presentation to get the Board or Governing Body thinking about the future, thinking long-term, beyond the more mundane day-to-day problems of the organization.  A needed lead-in to Goal-Setting.  Raises their sights:

  • What are the trends that are out there and how will they play out? 
  • Make the future you want by the decisions you make today. 
  • A value clarification exercise. 
  • Helps the Board think about what they can do now to make the future better.
  • Leads to more personal future visions.
  • About a ten-fifteen minute presentation.

Future Inferences

This module looks in more detail at some of the trends that are out there and identifies what inferences can be drawn from those.  Participative with the Governing Body.


What are the top ten items you’d like as an individual to see in your obituary?  What are the important things to you?  Perfect attendance at Rotary for 30 years.  Musician, played the fiddle.  Committed Bachelor, just like to fiddle around.

This gets them thinking of what they really value, on a more personal level.

If they are comfortable sharing the information, that can build a bridge between them, letting them each know what’s really important to each other.  If they’re not comfortable with that sharing, then it’s still useful in making them think.

About a fifteen minute paper and pencil exercise.

Lesson from the Constitution

The founders put off the slavery question until 1808. 20 years.  The length of a lifetime at that time.  The most intractable problem of the time was postponed, so the country could move ahead on the biggest change possible—uniting the country.  Had they fought the battle out at the time of the writing, the Constitution could not have passed.

A Year to Live
What are the top ten things you’d like to do if you knew you only had a year to live?
This gets them thinking of actions to take to live their values.
About a fifteen minute paper and pencil exercise.
Services Rating

Define each city service as one of three categories:

  • Basic Services
  • Maintenance of Effort
  • Quality of Life

Basic Services are those that are in the judgment of the Governing Body the most essential to provide for the health, safety, and general welfare of the City.  Usually those are seen as Police, Fire, Streets, Water, Sewage Treatment.  But more and more this list is being expanded.

Maintenance of Effort are those services that the City provides to protect its investment in infrastructure, to keep its commitments, and to provide support to other services.  Debt service, Financial services, street maintenance, building maintenance are some of those that would be in this category.

Quality of Life are those amenities that add to the life style of our people and the quality of our communities.  Usually people think of parks, trails, pools, art as items for this category.  Many of the outside agencies that seek funds fall into these categories as well.

Discussion usually follows on whether a pool, say, is a basic service to help youth stay out of trouble, so could be a police support program, the value of arts, and so on.  It usually allows the governing body to engage each other in a structured way about the underlying philosophy behind each service the city delivers.

This allows the Governing Body to look at services and develop a feeling for priorities.

This is about a one to two hour exercise working from a list of all current services that the City Manager will help prepare.  The Governing Body will discuss each service and decide which category it is.  From there, the background has been laid on where the City is as the Governing Body sees it and how to look at the future.

Successful Governance

This is a module about how to be a successful governing body of any entity, private, public, or third sector.  Based loosely on John Carver’s book, Boards that Make a Difference, it emphasizes how a Commission can get the most out of its staff, how to strengthen the Commission and its members, and how to strengthen the organization over all.

The key point is that it is not difficult to be a successful Governing Body, but it takes a mindset that is different from most other endeavors the members have experienced.  Running for the Commission is a lonely, stick-your-neck-out effort.  Being successful is through hard work. Being successful on the Commission is dependent on the ability to work with others, and to let others do the work.  That’s not the same skill set.  So it’s counter-intuitive and needs discussion on how to perform to be successful and make the others successful.

One of the points is not to have too many goals.  Six to ten is a workable number for a year.  Many groups try to have 75 goals but too much on the plate creates paralysis.  The way the Governing Body can move the city the fastest is to allow the organization to accomplish the first five goals and then come back for new priorities.

Another key point is to have Goals that are sufficiently defined so that the Objectives necessary to accomplish the Goals are measurable and measure what is important:  outputs.  If they want to get to a goal of a particular service delivery parameter—such as Stronger Public Safety, they need objectives that reach that Goal—such as faster police response, say.  They need to phrase that in a way that emphasizes the output desired.  My favorite approach ties outputs into all the factors of Total Quality Management:  number of events, speed, customer satisfaction, and cost.  So it says it like this:  “Police will respond to 3,452 emergency calls for service within 4 minutes on average with a satisfaction level of 80% of the callers 90% of the time at a cost of $37.52 per call.”

That is the ultimate output-based performance measure and it allows the Commission the ability to monitor speed of response, citizen satisfaction, number of calls, cost per call, and percentage of successful performance annually.  Each year one or more of those elements can be improved, providing Continuous Improvement on the part of staff, and easy monitoring on the part of the Governing Body.


Formal Goal-setting begins with a three-minute example of what leadership is, from Michael Hart’s book The 100The Most Influential People in History.  Conclusion is that successful leadership is a combination of Vision and Action.

First, the Governing Body is asked to visualize the community in 20 years. Take 15 minutes and think about it and then share what is developed with the group, another 5 minutes each.

At this point the Governing Body is ready to set the course for the community for the next five years and then next year, the first year of the five.

Doing it in that order keeps the Governing Body thinking strategically, looking to the 5 Year Goals Plan.  The period is beyond anyone’s term in office and so will need to have the force of public support to be implemented.

The 5 Year Goals are where the community wants to be at that time.  What the Governing Body wants to see happening in the community, happening in the organization, and happening with them.

The First Year Goals are Action Steps that move the City toward the vision of the 5 Year Goals.  If the agenda of one member doesn’t fit in the five-year goals, it’s not likely to be the focus of the First Year.

End Products

The end products you will have will be:

  • A Governing Body that knows how to think about the future, and how to act to make the future that is desired happen.
  • An evaluation of city services in three categories that helps with budget decisions later.
  • A set of priorities of city services that the Governing Body has blessed.
  • A feeling for where the community would like to go in 20 years.
  • A 5-Year Plan.
  • A 1-Year Action Plan.
  • If the Governing Body gets into the service outputs, a beginning TQM plan, and beginning with their priorities.
  • A set of measuring devices for evaluating the city manager on performance next year.
  • A Goal-setting program that can be updated every year and changed.
  • A Goal-setting program that is valuable to use after every election, to get everyone on the same page.

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