What I Learned

Paper does not generally last long in my office.  I dislike clutter and being unable to find things when I need them; so I ruthlessly throw out papers that are not of any obvious or immediate use to me.  I have, however, managed to keep my official “ICMA Management Practices Assessment Applied Knowledge Assessment Participant Feedback Report” since October 18, 1999.  The Assessment was the first step toward what would eventually become the International City-County Management Association’s (ICMA) Credentialed Manager Program, and I was pleased to be one of the first 75 or so managers to achieve that designation in 2002.

Credentialed Managers are ICMA members who have successfully completed a knowledge assessment (test); attained a specified level of education; and worked in the field for a designated number of years.  Credentialed managers are also pledged to complete 40 hours of continuing education every year; a requirement that I consider important, but nonetheless irritating.  While I usually like the coursework, I have trouble documenting what I learned.  I was so bad last year that I received the following admonition on my report:

Dear Wes:

            I have recommended approval of your extremely spare annual ICMA-CAB Report. Clearly, the activities that are briefly noted would have required considerably more than the minimum hours of developmental activities required. However, I recommend that, in your next annual report, considerably more needs to be explained about what you have learned from activities reported. An example is attached.

I believe I am now on probation after having been warned that my last report was “extremely spare.”  I remember responding that I would do better this year; so I dutifully read the good example provided by ICMA and recently made several uninspired attempts to convey what I learned from my continuing education efforts in 2010.  I need to confess at this point to an irrational distaste for the “model” report favored by ICMA.  I’m sure it’s just another symptom of the aging process and my personal transition toward becoming a grumpy old man(ager).

This year’s report is as follows:

I attended the annual Oregon City-County Management Association Summer Conference in Bend and sat through approximately eight hours of sessions focusing on public outreach, civic engagement, the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS), and a few things I can’t remember.  A good manager would have written down everything or at least remembered more.

I attended the League of Oregon Cities Annual Conference in Eugene and again attended at least ten hours of training on subjects such as improving facilitation skills, economic development, and ethics.  I made presentations at two of the sessions. 

I attended the annual ICMA Conference in San Jose and, as I invariably do, participated in 2 ICMA University Courses totaling 8 hours.  I attended various subject matter sessions involving about another 16 hours.  I focused on performance measurement, the Baldridge Model for organizational improvement, and “Leadership Resilience in Unimaginable Times,” (personal development) to name a few.

The more important question ICMA poses to its prospective credentialed managers is, “What difference did the training make?”  I do not think there is an easy answer to this question.  I believe I improved my facilitation skills and came away from several of the courses with some new ideas about how to present issues to policy makers and the public.  Most people are aware of Albany’s efforts to use performance measurement as a tool to drive improvement, and I know I picked up ideas from the Baldridge training and other sessions at the ICMA conference.  I can’t say that the training directly produced the several awards we received last year for good governance and transparency, but I believe it helped.

I think the most important benefit of ongoing training is that it requires individuals to question or compare their current way of doing things to a different model.  This process most often leads to small changes and occasionally can produce a dramatic improvement.  I don’t recall any of the latter this year.

In addition to the training in policy facilitation, performance measurement, and personal development, I completed some required emergency management training (8 hours) and recently participated in a day-long symposium on community development.  Despite some reservations, I take my commitment to the credentialing program seriously and believe it has helped make me a better manager over the past decade.  The only remaining question is whether this year’s report (741 words) will pass muster.