Under the Saguaro by Christian Williams

ELGL had the good fortune to meet Christian Williams from the City of Goodyear, Arizona at the CPBB conference in August.  He impressed us further with his knowledge of local government budgeting and he successfully retweeted all 40 tips that ELGL shared during our CPBB presentation.

Seriously – look at this guy – how could we NOT take him in to the ELGL family and ask him to share his ideas and perspectives about local government: 

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So today, we debut “Under the Saguaro” by Christian Williams.  He’ll write about his perspectives working in Goodyear, and the interesting local government trends and ideas (especially related to budgeting) that he wants to share with the ELGL family.


It has been a rapid and exciting experience joining and becoming a part of the City of Goodyear family culture.  It seems like just yesterday I moved into the busy binder-filled space on the 2nd floor of City Hall.

809ac04ed3d48244fc78307b8b08b566c3a9fdc52d3cef7da0f54aaf3f50f203Almost immediately I was being immersed in fun new acronyms such as PBB, ERP, GEO, LTM, WMM, and the list goes on.  I quickly had to become knowledgeable on one acronym Priority Based Budgeting (PBB) and one that looks like an acronym and isn’t, CITYSTAT, our performance measures program.  While learning about these new topics I had to also learn about how these initiatives, among others, fit into our Performance Management Program and ultimately our organizational culture.  Coming from a planning background, at a local school district, this has been a quick ride up the learning curve. Ten months later, which feels like yesterday, it seems like I have been working with these concepts since forever.

On my first day, February 3rd, 2014 after my GEO, or Goodyear Employee Orientation, Deputy City Manager, Wynette Reed, asks me if I would like to attend my first city council meeting.  Of course the answer was YES.  Why would I say yes to this after an 8-hour day?

  1. It is my first day.
  2. This will be what my Monday’s look like from now until the day I “hopefully” retire.
  3. My boss asked me if I would like to attend.
  4. PBB was on the agenda.
  5. PBB is the first item on my One Year Objectives “Support the Deputy City Manager in the management and implementation of Priority Based Budgeting”.
  6. I needed to get familiar with PBB.
  7. These guys named Jon and Chris, from the Center for Priority Based Budgeting, had flown in from Denver to present on it.
  8. My boss asked me if I wanted to go (hint: I probably should go) Side Note: I actually did want to learn about PBB because I am kind of nerdy.
  9. Jon and Chris were supposed to present this really cool tool called the “Resource Alignment Diagnostic Tool”, and the tool was developed in this “Center” for Priority Based Budgeting.
  10. It was no longer football season as the Super Bowl was played the night before.

roadsignAnyways back to PBB, it was an amazing experience coming in from the outside and seeing the tool operate.   This tool was one of the reasons I learned so quickly what our Council Priorities were, their definitions, and how they relate to our City initiatives and offerings.  I mean, they were clearly defined in the “results maps” and every offering of the City was scored based upon those items, including duties I would be taking on.  I could immediately see how not only myself but everyone’s role fit into the City and the City’s priorities.

It took a while but one day something clicked; our Performance Management Program or that blue, black, and green flow chart hanging all over the City and the content within it clicked.  Can you remember back to your first day at a new job when you hear all the buzz words and such and you feverously rush to take notes without hearing everything?  Then, you know that “aha moment”, when things truly click and you don’t even need your notes to understand the concept; I had one of those moments.  Wynette told me we needed to link our Priority Based Budgeting programs to our CITYSTAT performance measures.  I mean the blue, black, and green graphic showed them with a connecting arrow but how do you really link them?

DX7AQh3One day I was sitting around, loudly clicking my pen, pondering the task before me.  How can we, as an organization, show how these two initiatives are clearly linked and how our work (programs) are directly tied to performance measures/results?  I had a plethora of spreadsheet lists with all of our PBB programs by department; what they were missing was this 1-to-1 connection.  I kept visualizing a chain linking the two initiatives and an idea dawned on me; Why not just use a chain “link” to display the information and also get people to visually associate these linked initiatives.

I made a draft of this idea and walked over to the desk of Kristen Ennis, Executive Assistant to the Deputy City Managers.  I frequently bounce ideas off of her as she can tell me if my ideas are completely in space, if I need to move something around, or if I actually came up with something worth sharing.  Kristen said “This is a great way to see how these are linked to the bigger picture.”  In linking these initiatives someone should be able to look at their performance measure, see how many quartile 1 and 2 programs it impacts, because these are the most relevant to the city’s strategic goals and priorities, and vice versa look at what programs are impacting performance measures/programs.

Going further Kristen took this idea and working with Mario Saldamando, Executive Management Assistant to the other Deputy City Manager, embedded this “link” into the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) process.  Now anyone looking at the CIP can see how the project is being influenced by Quartile 1 and 2 programs, programs we and the citizens deem highly important to our community.

Kristen also shared an example with me of how the Parks Department ran a program all the way through the Performance Management Program from which Council Priority it was, to the Department Strategic Plans and Operations, to Priority Based Budgeting.  With the chain “link” you can now quickly see which performance measures and CIP projects are tied highly relevant city programs.

sGx39yAIt has been a fun but busy first ten months at the City of Goodyear.  I didn’t know it then but all the graphics hanging up around work would one day really “click”.  After staring at them so long they kind of seep into your daily activities and sometimes dreams.

These graphics are a representation of our culture and I hope some of the quirky graphics my team and I continue to develop also permeate through the soils of our organization; growing the next cohort of understanding.  I am lucky my first day started with a lesson on PBB.  The core of the PBB product and process was the core of our organizations values, which I am now extremely familiar with.


 We hoped you liked today’s installmant of “Under the Saguaro!”  Tweet your reactions to Christian at @MyPublicTweeter and stay tuned for his next column!

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