Annual Conference Time

This post will appear while I’m attending the annual International City-County Management Association (ICMA) conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  I go to these gatherings to maintain my status as an ICMA Credentialed Manager and because I learn useful things that I can apply to the work we are doing in Albany.

My conference begins with two ICMA University classes that involve a commitment of eight hours on Saturday to study and discuss “Effective Management on the Front Lines” and “Civic Engagement:  Public as Partners, not Enemies.”  I am required to commit to 40 hours of annual continuing education, and I can meet more than half of that obligation at the annual conference.  Sunday, I will participate in a forum entitled “Labor Relations in the Age of the New Normal,” in addition to a plenary session.  The remaining two-plus days of the conference offer a number of one- to two-hour topical sessions and several keynote speeches.  The daily commitments are generally followed by evening receptions where managers gather to talk about their communities, the profession, and ideas from the conference.

I enjoy attending the annual conference, and I always come back with some new enthusiasm for an idea I’ve learned about at a session or from another manager.  A couple of years ago, I attended a class on budgeting where I picked up a valuable idea that we’ve used in our last two Albany budget processes.  Last year, Bob Woods presented the Albany Dashboard at a session and has since helped several communities increase their transparency by using our model.  Reading about ideas is not the same as hearing about and sharing them in a live, interactive meeting.

Many years ago, I attended a conference presentation on performance measurement where I entered as a skeptic and left with a grudging willingness to look more carefully at the issue.  The class helped me realize that I needed to change my attitude about using data to drive improvement in the community where I worked.  I have since had this lesson reinforced many times by examples from around the U.S. and the world.

The concluding forum at this year’s conference is called “Changed for Good:  Leading Transformation in Your Organization and Your Community.”  I look forward to this discussion and will try to report what I learned in a future column.  When I think of how many times the rules have changed during my career, I can appreciate how important it is develop skills to help adapt.

I am taking a few days before the conference to visit some aging members of my mother’s family in Dayton, Ohio, as I have done for the past several years.  There are a limited number of people in the world who have cared about you throughout your life and will continue to care about you as long as they (or you) live.  It makes sense to pass some time with them when you get the chance.