Thursday, August 03, 2006


I have been employed as a planner by a municipal government for almost ten years. In the beginning, I enjoyed working as an urban planner. But ten years later, I am becoming disillusioned with my job and the field of urban planning. It could be the environment I am working in. It could be the 'evolution' of planning from one thing to another. It could be both. It could be something totally different. Whatever it is, I am at a crossroads. I no longer find my career choice challenging or exciting. I rarely have anything good to say about my job or planning in general.

Part if it definitely stems from a not-so-desirable workplace environment. About 4 years ago, a major shift happened in City Hall. Due to an early-retirement window, people were retiring in droves. Many of these people had a vast amount of knowledge and experience. There was no attempt to record this knowledge - it simply vanished. Then there was a scandal that involved a leasing company and a trash compactor. There was wining and dining and deals made. People were fired. The politicians no longer trusted senior management or administration for that matter. A new Chief Administrative Officer was brought in to reorganize the corporation. That action was the beginning of the evolution from a great place to work to a place that was blacklisted by various professional organizations.

The reorg was a disaster. It was a top-down approach that attempted to remove all the 'silos' or kingdoms that existed, or so we were told. In their place, were five much larger 'silos'. Departments were given new names. Traffic Engineering became Transportation Planning and so on. There was absolutely no buy in from non-management and front-line staff. Not surprising given that they had no input into the reorg. The reorg was stopped part way through and the CAO was given a position outside the corporation. The new CAO - the former Finance Commissioner, who had left this City for a position in another city but came back when offered the CAO position - enacted a reorg of the reorg. What a mess.

My own department was split into two 'business units' with each unit located with a separate department. Yup, unlike most Planning Departments in Canada, planning functions were ripped into two (policy, urban design and community planning in one; development planning in the other) unrelated sections. What a recipe for disaster. Adding to the confusion was the fact that both units were still located in the same area of City Hall. Wonderful.

During this time, my former manager retired. A new manager was hired and eventually an additional layer of management added by the way of a supervisor. Ever since, planning has gone down hill, for me at least. No longer was one manager reviewing my work, I now had two people reviewing my reports, meaning twice as much work and having to convince two people about my recommendations and reports. In over three years, I have yet to have a report that was not totally marked up, questions out the wazoo, and so on. It is demoralizing. I don't look forward coming into work anymore.