No more low hanging fruit

City has to start showing efficiency results

With the warm weather we’ve been having you’d half expect we’d be growing fruit on trees here in Calgary. The weather might also remind you of another season that comes every year: tax season — and according to city council we’re going to be in for some seasonal growth.

No one really likes taxes and fees. We certainly like some of what they get us such as transit roads parks recreation sewage water and the arts. Some councillors more than others work to ensure that taxes and fees remain reasonable arguing for clear priorities measurable results and balance with the broader role of municipal government in ensuring that the services we receive are meaningful to Calgarians.

So now that the election is done we discover that in order to maintain services (not grow them) Calgarians will be signing cheques for 4.8 5.5 5.5 and 5.1 per cent in each of the next four years respectively. That doesn’t include fees.


Oh and if you thought efficiency was going to save us well that’s not likely either. According to Eric Sawyer chief financial officer for the City of Calgary when it comes to efficiency and productivity the “low hanging fruit” has been all but plucked.

Excuse me for asking but why was there ever “low hanging fruit” to begin with?

Perhaps I’m reading into it too much but at countless council meetings city administration has said it is constantly seeking efficiencies in providing services to Calgarians and in executing the directions of council.

If that’s the case then again why was there ever “low hanging fruit” to begin with?

I do efficiency analysis and process improvement for a living and have a unique perspective on a statement like this. Efficiency is not an outcome it is a behaviour. I like initiatives that take the red tape to the shredder simplify how services are provided and improve the outcomes for those who depend on them. I realize that these initiatives are just that initiatives. They are temporary with the intention of proving a method and then establishing it as permanent.

Sawyer is right when he essentially says that the easy stuff is done. Frankly it should never have been there in the first place. With the Cut Red Tape Initiative still underway with administration continually seeking out efficiencies and productivity gains and with the ongoing Zero Based Reviews intent on getting stuff done better you have to wonder what’s going on?

The problem in my mind is clear: we’re failing to translate these initiatives into behaviours that support efficient and effective delivery of services. From my experience I know that these changes are slow to come especially in an organization the size of the City of Calgary; however three years into the Cut Red Tape Initiative we should be seeing some tangible results beyond food trucks (which I do enjoy).

We really need to stop creating initiatives and instead create clear results.

If the low hanging fruit is already plucked grab a ladder and go for the stuff at the top.