Decision Theory for Planners#115 Goals & Objectives – there is a difference

A properly structured series of goals, objectives and targets can and should achieve five things, it is important to clarify these as confusion over these concepts in rife in planning;

1)      Above all act as a framework for managing change and responding to the challenges that a place/organization faces – there is much to learn then from some simple concepts of management theory;

2)       Act as a focus in forward planning  on whether actions take you towards or goal or away from it; and solely focusing activity on removing constraints on achieving goals – this is a key insight from operations research and time management;

3)      Act as a framework for making rational decisions against multiple criteria on a common basis, and prioritizing goals and actions – this is an insight from decision theory;

4)      Act as a means as identifying spatial conflicts between land uses that meet different goals and how to rationally resolve spatial conflicts between land uses – this is a relatively recent concept from GIS thinking and its application to planning policy;

5)      Act as a metric for the evaluation of different policy options against some preset criteria – such as sustainability appraisal/integrated appraisal etc.

Each of these approaches are closely interrelated and have greatly influenced each other.  Taken together they can be used to create powerful, insightful, effective planning documents and processes.

Goals as a Management Tool

Goals as a planning tool will not be effective unless placed within a management context through which the ‘plan’ will be delivered.

A goal in this sense is a description of an end state that an organization wishes to achieve.  The management literature tends to use goals and objectives as interchangeable terms, but the full benefits of a structured approach towards goal setting is only achieved if a hierarchical approach is taken distinguishing between goals, objectives and policies (this is mandated in some jurisdictions).

Goals in this sense are the high level and short statement setting out where a place/organization wants to be after a period of time.

Objectives are the specific statements setting out measures to achieve a goal.

A target is a metricated objective, or a metric for an objective,  designed as a tool of performance management.

Example:  Goal:  Diversify the economy reducing reliance on oil and gas exports; Objectives in support of that goal:  Provide sufficient land for light industries/logistics for which Bahrain has a competitive exports advantage,  Allow for the planned expansion of existing heavy industries where there is a sustainability case for these to be located in Bahrain, etc. etc.

Notes:  These are designed to illustrate the point rather than being suggested goals or objectives.

Goals and objectives should begin with a verb.  This improves clarity of intent, implies action, and establishes a rhythm of ideas that enhances understanding. (Carr and Zwick).

The setting of goals and objectives is an iterative process, in particular at the early stages of a project up to and beyond the point at which tentative options are formulated.

From my experience 15-20 objectives is about the right number.  Beyond this paperwork and monitoring becomes onerous.

 The importance of Management by Objectives

The concepts that management should be about achieving the objectives of an organisation (Druker) and that objectives should be SMART[1] (Locke).  What is less well known is the origin in thinking about how people in an organization respond to objectives, and how organizations need to set goals to respond to changes in their environment.

Five Principles of Goal Setting (Locke and Latham)[2]

To motivate, goals must have:

  1. Clarity – Clear goals are measurable and unambiguous
  2. Challenge – People are often motivated by achievement, and they’ll judge a goal based on the significance of the anticipated accomplishment
  3. Commitment – Stakeholders are more likely to “buy into” a goal if they feel they were part of creating that goal
  4. Feedback – Feedback from stakeholders provides opportunities to clarify expectations, adjust goal difficulty, and gain recognition
  5. Appropriate for Task Complexity – For complex goals give the person sufficient time to meet the goal or improve performance and provide enough time for the person to practice or learn what is expected and required for success.

Backward Goal-setting

Or backward design, is used quite often in education and project management. The idea is to start with your ultimate objective, your end goal, and then work backward from there to develop your plan. By starting at the end and looking back, you can mentally prepare yourself for success, map out the specific milestones you need to reach, and identify where in your plan you have to be particularly energetic or creative to achieve the desired results.

This is important where actions must follow a sequence, e.g. construct a road to open up a landlocked development area, or where (as is often the case in planning) achievement of a goal requires delivery of counter-intuitive prior actions.

Competitiveness Strategy & The Challenge-Response Framework (Michael E. Porter[3] and Toynbee)

As set out by the highly influential work of Porter Competitiveness Strategy involves:

  • Performing a situation analysis, self-evaluation and competitor analysis: both internal and external; both micro and macro.
  • Concurrent with this assessment, objectives are set. These objectives should be parallel to a time-line; some are in the short-term and others on the long-term. This involves crafting vision statements (long term view of a possible future), mission statements (the role that the organization gives itself in society), overall corporate objectives (both financial and strategic) etc.
  • These objectives should, in the light of the situation analysis, suggest a strategic plan. The plan provides the details of how to achieve these objectives.

This work has primarily concerned corporations, although it has been influential in framing ‘business growth strategies’ that have been used by many municipalities internationally in determining priorities for growth of their private sectors.

This framework, primarily concerned with cost and competitive advantage, requires  adjustment when adapted to the public sector management of place, when factors more than primarily cost must come into play (although Porter does recommend a balanced score card approach) and the importance of civic responsibility and community leadership must be recognised.   I have found very effective, when working with political leadership, the ‘challenge-response’ framework originally formulated by the Historian Albert Toynbee, to be an effective substitute:

  • Cities and civilizations arise by the response of creative individuals to challenges presented by situations of special difficulty created by the external environment.
  • Progress consists in meeting difficulties by responding in creative ways;
  • The breakdown of society occurs when creative individuals fail to lead through the exercise of creative power, resulting in withdrawal of the allegiance of the majority and a subsequent loss of social unity.

Using this framework one can analyse the special challenges facing a place, with goals being those creative responses to these challenges.

As an example here is the most extreme example I could think of:

Maldives – Challenge – sea level rise will drown the country within 100 years.  Potential responses, persuade other countries to adopt carbon reduction targets of over 80%, or create new areas of reclaimed land and move population, or move population to an area purchased from another country (the ‘uganda’ solution[4]), or become a virtual country of refugees (like Palestine).  Not all challenges might have an achievable or desirable response!

[1] Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time Bound.

[2] “A Theory of Goal Setting and Task Performance.” Prentice-Hall (19 Dec 1989)

[3] Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors 1998.

[4] Named after the early british suggestion of resolving the Palestine question by creating a jewish homeland in Uganda.

Edward L. Glaeser Questions Ecological Value of Urban Farming – Correct?

Interesting argument at the Boton Globe from this Harvard Professor of Economics and lover of big dense cities.

while neighborhoods benefit from the occasional communal garden, it is a mistake to think that metropolitan areas could or should try to significantly satisfy their own food needs. Good environmentalism is smart environmentalism that thinks through the total systemic impacts of any change. Farm land within a metropolitan area decreases density levels and pushes us apart, and carbon emissions rise dramatically as density falls.

In 2008, two Carnegie Mellon researchers …found that American food consumption produces greenhouse gas equivalent to 8.9 tons of carbon dioxide per household per year. Food delivery represents .4 tons of that total; all agricultural transportation up and down the food chain creates one ton of carbon dioxide per household annually.

We must weigh the environmental benefits from shipping less food against the environmental costs of producing and storing local food in a state that doesn’t exactly have ideal conditions for every kind of produce. One recent UK report found that the greenhouse gas emissions involved in eating English tomatoes were about three times as high as eating Spanish tomatoes…

But the most important environmental cost of metropolitan agriculture is that lower density levels mean more driving. Today, about 250 million Americans live on the 60 million acres of this country that are urban — which is about four people per acre. By contrast, America uses 442 million acres for cropland and 587 million acres for pastureland, which is about 1.4 and 1.9 acres per person respectively. If we allocated just 7.2 percent of this agricultural land into metropolitan area, we would halve metropolitan area densities.

The National Highway Travel Survey teaches us that when densities drops in half, holding fixed location within the metropolitan area, households buy about 107 gallons more gas per year. If halving densities also doubled distance to the metropolitan area center, this would add an extra 44 gallons of gas annually. Together, the increased gas consumption from moving less than a tenth of agricultural farmland into metropolitan areas would generate an extra 1.77 tons of carbon dioxide per year, which is 1.77 times the greenhouse gases produced by all food transportation and almost four and a half times the carbon emissions associated with food delivery….

Shipping food is just far less energy intensive than moving people. If the First Lady wants to help the environment, she should campaign for high rise apartments, rather than plant vegetables.

Glaeser is correct to question the unthinking approach to food miles.  In the Middle East for example it makes no sense to burn oil and use precious water to grow food that can be imported by sea from East Africa.  But his argument is incomplete.

The intensity of cultivation will always significantly increase in cities, and some forms of urban agriculture dont use up land to lower density at all, such as growing on roofs and on balconies, and every available space, often using new innovative techniques such as those pioneered by Dr Vishwanath.

Urban agriculture is typically opportunistic. Its practitioners have evolved and adapted diverse knowledge and know-how to select and locate, farm, process, and market all manner of plants, trees, and livestock. What they have achieved in the very heart of major cities, and dare to pursue despite minimal support, and often in the face of official opposition, is a tribute to human ingenuity. One survey by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP 1996) identified over 40 farming systems, ranging from horticulture to aquaculture, kitchen gardens to market gardens, and including livestock as varied as cattle, chickens, snails, and silkworms!…The UNDP estimates perhaps as many as 800 million urban farmers produce about 15% of the world’s food. (Mougeot 2006)

It doesn’t make sense to grow food locally that is not climate appropriate, but there is nothing wrong with growing tomatoes in England (or Netherlands where so many are grown) providing they are not from  fossil fuel fuelled greenhouses.

Cities largely grow as sectors along transport routes, in between these sectors increased density often makes little sense as it is away from public transport and it would only lead to greater car use.  So why not leave areas open and have some as urban gardens?  What is more urban greenery of all kinds has a huge benefit on improving amenity and increasing attractiveness of cities.  Density without greenery is a nightmare.

If a garden is to remain a garden why not grow food on it?  There is no opportunity cost and no moving of people.  It is curious that an economist should neglect such a basic law of economics. Urban Farming is often an unexploited free good that can raise effective incomes of the poorest.

Similarly on an ‘urban prairie’ with no alternative use why not grow food, it is effectively free agricultural land which makes perfect sense to farm as it is making productive use of unproductive land?  Praise the first lady on this professor as money not spent on food imports helps the balance of trade.

Another law he ignores is that of rent – or worse confuses the margin of cultivation/extensive rent with intensive rent.  Transport costs add to rent and energy costs is the main input into transport costs.  Doing some old fashioned Von Thunen rings will show that as energy costs rise intensive agriculture near and within cities will become more and more economic.  In the future, as in J H Kunstlers Book ‘The World Made by Hand‘, we may all have to follow the first lady.

(Note halving densities doesn’t double distance (d) to the city core, it increases it by d2)

National Planning Policy Framework Forensics #29 Transport – Locational and Design issues

The practicioners draft on page 23 contains several paras on issues to be considered in allocations and/or at detailed design stage.

Developments that generate significant movement should preferably be located where the need to travel will be minimised and use of sustainable transport modes can be maximised. However, this needs to take account of policies set out elsewhere in this National Planning Policy Framework, particularly in rural areas.

Developments should be located and designed to minimise the need to travel. For larger scale residential developments a mix of uses is preferable in order to provide opportunities to undertake day to day activities including work on site. Where practical and ideally within large scale developments, key facilities such as primary schools, local shops and healthcare should be within walking distance of most properties.

Local planning authorities should aim for a balance of land uses within their area so that people can be encouraged to minimise journey lengths for employment, shopping, leisure, education and other activities.

Local Plan strategies should protect and exploit opportunities for the use of sustainable modes for the movement of freight or people.
Developments should be located and designed where practical to:
•give priority to pedestrian and cycle movements;
•have access to high quality public transport facilities;
•create safe and secure layouts which minimise conflicts between traffic and cyclists or pedestrians;
•incorporate facilities for charging electric and other low emission vehicles; and
•consider the needs of disabled people by all modes of transport.

These sections are ok as they go, they could add reference to servicing, the needs of the elderly and those with children, and the need for walk able neighbourhoods and the application of the ‘whole journey approach’ (i.e. considering public transport and walking at each end of the journey together. However this section could easily be combined with the earlier section on transport assessment to avoid duplication.

There is also somewhat less emphasis on mixed use development, compared to para 30 of PPG3

I would suggest the following wording:

A Transport Assessment (including a travel plan) will be required where the development or redevelopment is likely to have significant transport implications. The coverage and detail of the Transport Assessment should reflect the scale and the likely extent of transport impacts of the proposed scheme.

Plans should aim for a balance of land uses within their area so that people can be encouraged to minimise journey lengths for employment, shopping, leisure, education and other activities. They should focus mixed use development involving large amounts of employment, shopping, leisure and services in town centres & encourage a mix of land uses, including housing, in town centres and at a neighbourhood scale. The land requirements of sustainable transport should be considered before the needs of other land uses, particularly on former transport sites.

The decision maker should consider whether a development or a proposed allocation:

  1. Is located and designed to minimise the need to travel, and the number and length of car journeys – including whether the location is appropriate to the transport networks serving it given the size and nature of the use. Schemes attracting or generating significant numbers of people should be located and designed to maximise use of high quality sustainable transport networks, expanding them where needed. Schemes attracting significant number of freight movements should be located close to junctions of the main road networks, and for bulky freight take reasonable opportunities for rail or water movement. The differing circumstances of urban and rural areas should be considered.
  2. Provides safe and suitable access to and within the site for the whole community. This means prioritising walking and cycling – minimising conflict with cars and large vehicles, & promoting walkable and connected communities with, where practical, accessible key facilities (primary schools, local shops and healthcare) especially within large scale developments
  3. Leaves sufficient capacity so that, after any improvements to transport networks , any residual impact would not unacceptably harm the functioning of the network or unacceptably harm the ability to deliver sustainable growth in the wider area.
  4. Has proper servicing and emergency access, and facilities for charging electric and other low emission vehicles.

The needs of travellers should be considered across the whole journey, from origin to destination & including improved interhcange, with special emphasis on those with mobility restrictions such as disabled people, the elderly and those with children.

Ill look at parking in the next section, ok so what important from PPG13 is left out after this?  Two areas stand out  firstly rural areas, covered in paras 40-44 of PPG13.  I think this could be edited down to one short section as follows:

In rural areas, local authorities should focus most development comprising jobs, shopping, leisure and services in or near to local service centres, to help ensure it is served by public transport (or if not possible dsitances by car are short) and provides some potential for access by walking and cycling. These centres (which might be a market town, a single larger village or a group of smaller villages) should be identified in the development plan as the preferred locations for such development. They should also be the main focus for significant additional housing. The availability of previously developed land is not, in itself, a sufficient reason for developing in inaccessible locations.

In order to reduce the need for long-distance out-commuting to jobs in urban areas, it is important to promote adequate employment opportunities in rural areas.

Including agricultural diversification and small scale employment on farms and around villages. Rural plces of work with large number of workers should ideally will require choices other than the private car, such as public transport or, if not practical, free transport by the employer.

This wording also tries to be slightly more realistic on local service centres, given that with very poor bus services in many rural areas the distance travelled will often be key to minimising carbon emissions.

I think the freight, and some of the mode specific issues are adequately covered above leaving just one remaining area, traffic management/Public Transport management.  These are one of the statutorily defined functions of plans in the 1990 act and so need to be covered.  All it needs is

Traffic management and the management of public transport facilities should be compatible with these principles and planned in an integrated manner.

Decision Theory for Planners #114 Breaking the Overton Window

Of the spectrum of all possible policy options the frame of all reasonable options is called the ‘Overton Window‘. It is named after its originator, Joseph P. Overton, former vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy

By reasonable its means those considered reasonable in terms of the current political discourse, rather than the additional test of being reasonable in terms of practicality etc.

It is a means of visualizing which ideas define that range of acceptance. Proponents of policies outside the window seek to persuade or educate the public so that the window either “moves” or expands to encompass them. Opponents of current policies, or similar ones currently within the window, likewise seek to convince people that these should be considered unacceptable.

After Overton’s death the concept caused a lot of chatter amongst thinks tanks, expanding the idea so that new ideas entering the public discourse they can shift the window of what is considered reasonable. add the concept of moving the window, such as deliberately promoting ideas even less acceptable than the previous “outer fringe” ideas, with the intention of making the current fringe ideas acceptable by comparison.

Lets take an example.  A political party proposes education vouchers, this is condemned, but following public arguments a new ‘compromise plan is put forward which may be considered reasonable, whereas if this watered down plan had been put forward originally it may have at first been considered extreme.

The following diagram sums it up.

The technique has been used by many previously fringe think tanks to make their ideas seem mainstream.  A classic example is the very anti-planning discourse used by the Policy Exchange (see numerous posts here exposing there methods).  The term has even been taken up by that way-out king of conspiracy theories Glenn Beck as the Title of a dreaful novel.

It is a form of door in your face negotiation.  ‘Would you donate £5,000 to our organisation?  No ok how about £5’

The onslaught of essays, breakfast briefings and speeches by those, including those in No10,  proposing an abolsute minimalist and anti-planning approach in the new NPPF is a classic example.    At the end of the day the planning system might not be watered down as such extreme thinkers want but it might have been watered down considerably.

The problem  is that even giving credence to offbeam ideas can give them a false credence.  This is known as “Okrent’s Law” during his tenure asa news paper editor Okrents commented about his job  “The pursuit of balance can create imbalance because sometimes something is true,” referring to the phenomenon of the press providing legitimacy to fringe or viewpoints in an effort to appear even-handed.  Classic examples is undue press given to climate change deniers and opponents to evolution.

The problem is that applying an argument to moderation gives oxygen to extremists.  It is a logical fallacy, a false balance, as in:

“Some would say that hydrogen cyanide is a delicious and necessary part of the human diet, but others claim it is a toxic and dangerous substance. The truth must therefore be somewhere in between

So if you see someone trying to create an Overton Window there can be only one rational response, don’t compromise.

National Planning Policy Framework Forensics#28 Ports, Airports & Inland Waterways

The practitioner draft contains a short section on Ports and Airports replacing thoses aspects of policy on these not covered by National Policy Statements (now published for Ports and Awaited for Airports).

This would replace paras B4-B12 of PPG13.

The practioners draft says the following (pages 22-23)

Local planning authorities should work with neighbouring authorities to develop strategies for the provision of infrastructure necessary to support sustainable economic growth, including large scale facilities such as Strategic Rail Freight Terminals or transport investment necessary to support strategies for the growth of ports, airports or other major generators of travel demand in their areas….

Local planning authorities should, when planning for ports, airports and airfields that are not subject to a separate National Planning Statement, ensure that the Local Plan considers:
•their growth and role in serving business, leisure, training and emergency service needs;
•the economic, environmental and social impacts on the local and wider economy; and
•policies set out elsewhere in this National Planning Policy Framework and as well as the principles set out in the relevant national planning statements.

The statement is ok as far as it goes but would benefit if the following two sentences from PPG13 were woven in:

Surface access needs should be planned as part of the wider transport strategy for the local area
Avoid development at or close to an airport or airfield which is incompatible with any existing or potential aviation operations

There is nothing on Inland Waterways(b14-15 in PPG13), so I would suggest a very brief summary of current policy as follows – important to keep because of the presumption etc.

Inland Waterways are a key national resource in terms of transport, drainage, wildlife and leisure (see Waterways for Tomorrow (June 2000)). Decision makers should should seek to re-use disused wharves and basins, to retain boatyards and other services used in connection with water-based recreation, and to protect and enhance the waterway environment, where these are viable options. Proposals for waterside development should seek to enhance the use, enjoyment and setting of the adjacent waterway. Development proposals should not adversely affect inland waterways.