City Planning’s Strategic Plan 2013–2018 is the divisional playbook for advancing a city building agenda. With the Official Plan Vision as its foundation, five Strategic Directions are supported by key initiatives and a series of Actions that form a framework to guide priorities and activities.
The Plan’s energy and focus are best captured by the action statement, Planning a Great City, TOgether!
Our mission is a call to action as well an affirmation of the important work that we undertake as a Division. It highlights the Division’s leadership role in implementing the Official Plan:
As leaders and partners in an innovative culture, we build a great city through excellence in planning and influential policy. We implement Toronto’s Official Plan for a sustainable, connected city of neighbourhoods where life and business flourish.
Overall City Planning Division priorities are set through Council policies and decisions. To keep Council updated on implementation of those priorities and the ability to manage new requests, an annual report to Council (or delegated Committee) should be created to outline the previous year’s accomplishments, the upcoming year’s workplan and the projects that are pending subject to resources.
Division priorities and resource allocations should be set at the annual Division Workshop, followed by quarterly check-ins and updates at the Directors’ meeting through to management and section meetings at the District level.
A protocol for assessing and updating Council on the status of motions directed to the Division should be established to quickly inform Council on the resourcing and scheduling implications of adding new work program items vis-a-vis other Council priorities.
Clarify priorities, set directions, allocate resources and problem-solve for major policy initiatives that cross Divisional boundaries by creating a quarterly Inter-Divisional Major Project Steering Committee (rotating Chair). This committee would include the Chief Planner and the senior managers involved with significant projects or policy initiatives and would be fully supported with agendas, notifications and minutes.
Expand the pilot of an integrated and co-located inter-Divisional development management team for rapidly changing areas of the city, such as transit precincts, to expedite cross-Divisional requirements as well as to integrate emerging policy.
Reaffirm with and communicate to partner Divisions and agencies the role of Community Planning as the Team Leader in the application review process, with responsibility to actively project manage proposals and identify solutions where divisional comments conflict.
Develop a specialized support team within the Division to assist staff with the OMB submission and hearing preparation.
Create a repository of OMB precedent briefs, graphics and prior rulings as a research tool.
Establish a two day annual Division Workshop chaired by the Chief Planner. Day one will include all staff and will celebrate the year’s successes, discuss progress on implementation of the Strategic Plan and discuss the Division’s plans and priorities for the coming year. This is an opportunity for the Chief Planner to hear directly from staff. Day two will include Directors and Managers to discuss work-plan prioritization and resourcing.
The outcomes of the Workshop should be followed up through the regular management team meetings of Directors and Managers.
All Directors and Managers need to assess their leadership abilities as part of their annual objective setting and performance reviews, along with appropriate leadership and management training. Not every person will have the same willingness or potential for different levels of responsibility. New leadership assignments should be provided to appropriate staff who have demonstrated leadership or the potential for leadership.
Structure part of the regular Directors and Managers meetings to implement and respond to the outcomes of the annual Division Workshop. This is an opportunity to refresh work planning and resource allocations in light of new or changing policy or program directions.
Working with Human Resources, dedicate a Talent Development Consultant to carry out individual assessments that result in individual training plans. These recommendations and plans should align with both the Division’s current and future needs as well as the career aspirations of the individual.
There is tremendous value in each staff member undertaking an annual training needs assessment, workplan objective setting and performance reviews. The training needs assessment is followed up by a training plan that is reviewed and refreshed regularly.
Create a formal mentoring program where staff as part of their training plan, have the opportunity to be mentored by more senior/experienced staff. Mentorship is a personal development relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced person. However, true mentoring is more than just answering occasional questions or providing ad hoc help. It is about an ongoing relationship of learning, dialogue and challenge.
Provide regularly scheduled opportunities for staff to present updates on their projects – both from a best practices and informational perspective – to other staff from within and outside the Division through “brunch and learn” or similar type sessions.
Establish a technological committee with representatives from across the Division to assess Information Technology requirements and to develop an Information Technology Plan for the City Planning Division. This Information Technology Plan should be multi-year in nature and iterative in achievable benefits.
Establish an Administrative Support Task Force to identify and assess the administrative support needs of the Division and to develop recommendations on more efficient and effective ways to support those needs (even on a temporary basis). This could include consolidation of administrative support and/or the creation of new administrative positions to address program needs. The Task Force must work closely with the staff involved in the IT Plan.
Give the Talent Development Consultant the responsibility for a vacancies and recruitment portfolio. Working with Human Resources, the Consultant will identify barriers and opportunities to prioritize and fill positions, as well as make improvements to the hiring and promotion practices, particularly around communications with candidates. Regular updates should be provided at the Directors meetings.
In addition to the annual Division Workshop, add an on-going agenda item to the Directors meetings to assess and strategize program assignments and responsibilities. The Talent Development Consultant should also undertake follow up with staff on job competitions and provide updates to the Directors.
Designate a senior staff person to work with the Talent Development Consultant to develop a formalized Succession Planning and Succession Management Plan. The Plan would identify those staff with the skills and abilities to potentially assume key positions in the future and to establish a process to support information and knowledge transfer from retiring staff.
Develop a communication toolkit for use over at least the next two years. The toolkit should identify key audiences and messages and provide stock materials tailored for each group. These must be graphically innovative and at a minimum should include:
Using the tools noted above, present the Strategic Plan to the Planning and Growth Management Committee. The presentation should highlight key actions and next steps that will improve the Division’s effectiveness.
An annual report from the Chief Planner to the Planning and Growth Management Committee, along with the frequent reports back on individual work requests, will keep Councillors apprised of the Division’s current and future priorities and workloads, as well as resource implications.
On a semi-annual basis there should be a State of the Division update in each District that is led by designated staff. The purpose of these meetings is to provide a meaningful time to assess divisional progress and discuss the quarter ahead. The results of these meetings should be forwarded to the Chief Planner’s Office and incorporated into the next year’s Division Workshop. This feedback is also one additional opportunity for staff to provide candid opinions to the Chief Planner, Directors and Managers. Consideration should be given to providing the opportunity for the staff from other Divisions to participate in these update sessions. Tools such as staff surveys and e-updates should be utilized.
Implement regular information sharing events for staff (inter- and intra-Divisional) with an emphasis on sharing development management and policy initiatives, as well as specific project information. As the technology to do so is readily available, these could also become podcasts. These events become ways to highlight and celebrate staff achievements and allow for recognition by managers and peers. Consideration should be given to extending invitations for City Planning “Brunch and Learn” series to other Divisions.
Institute learning programs through staff orientation and professional development to generate a broader familiarity with the Official Plan and other planning issues and trends. This should form a basic part of the annual objective setting for staff.
Through regular inter-Divisional meetings, communication and ongoing relationships, identify opportunities with other Divisions to partner on project reviews and develop new joint policy that supports the Official Plan and other city building objectives. This includes identifying and resolving areas of policy overlap such as transportation and housing. This should be an ongoing item at the regular Directors meeting.
There are already several productive inter-Divisional relationships in place that provide a basis for regular, responsive and consistent communication to support organizational development, best practices, and the desired city building outcomes. However, these relationships are not consistent. It is recommended that the Chief Planner designate specific senior staff to engage with other Divisions in a liaison or ‘lead’ role. The goal of this interaction – both casual and formal – is to establish and nurture the relationships needed for efficient and effective work between the Divisions.
Make the Official Plan the foundation of community meetings as often as possible. Additional information-sharing opportunities should be undertaken to provide platforms for raising the awareness about the Official Plan and its link to the local community interest. Over time the Official Plan subsequently becomes the construct within which the community is able to discuss and analyze city building issues and proposals.
Consistently use the tools from the communications toolkit to provide clear messaging for the City Planning Division at public meetings by making the Division’s role in city building known in a consistent and straightforward manner. For example, start all presentations with the Official Plan Vision.
Identify opportunities for communicating the Official Plan and the role of the City Planning Division in the community as part of ongoing work planning in the Districts. The aim of this should be a more informal engagement with City Planning staff, ideally not tied to a particular policy initiative or application. This could include District office open houses (“My Community Planner Afternoons”), school outreach programs or “Holding Public Office” initiatives that put planners in public spaces (through the creation of a ‘virtual’ office at community events).
Develop a public involvement resource page that staff and the public can use when undertaking public engagement activities, referencing best practices while vesting activities within the requirements of the planning legislation.
Continue the Chief Planner Roundtable series with key outside interests to understand issues and to provide updates on substantive projects from the Division. Outcomes can be communicated to promote two-way engagement and provide an opportunity to promote key messages from the City Planning Division.
Require planning leads to engage on an ongoing basis with other City Divisions and agencies. These roles should be planned as part of the annual work plan and objective setting exercises for these staff.
Identify and establish a protocol for a multi-Divisional approach to major project management and implementation. This could include, but would likely not be limited to the following:
Ongoing interaction between Divisions through more routine activities and various programs is another key opportunity for collaboration. Currently, policy development and development review activities rely largely on paper distribution and/or notification to engage other Divisions. Efforts should be made to establish protocols for early and efficient interaction within various processes. For example cross-Divisional representation at the pre-application stage or initial review of significant development proposals would allow for the transfer of knowledge among key contacts for the file, the identification of key issues or work streams that could impact the proposal and opportunities for identifying efficiencies on a go forward basis.
Create District level public engagement strategies as part of annual divisional work planning to identify contacts related to major policy or project initiatives as well as for ongoing contact with key interests. This would be in addition to the existing processes for public engagement associated with the review of development applications.
Create partnership strategies to:
The Chief Planner and Directors should identify a concise list of Official Plan implementation indicators to assist in benchmarking how well key aspects of the Official Plan policies and vision are being implemented.
The Chief Planner and Directors should identify a set of Divisional development indicators to assist in measuring key organizational outcomes related to the strategic goals of the Division.
Develop a monitoring plan, information gathering schedule and a progress report as part of the Divisional Annual Report.
Create a Strategic Plan Implementation Team reporting to the Chief Planner with responsibility for coordinating implementation and oversight of the monitoring plan and related deliverables.
The beginning of the Strategic Planning process generated four very well received Quick Hits: Technological Advancement, Planners in Public Spaces (PiPS), Studio Space and our new Divisional Identifier. The Strategic Plan Implementation Team should, in conjunction with the annual Division Workshop, coordinate, refresh and add to the Quick Hits list to ensure that immediate actions are continually generated and followed up throughout the year.