The City of Redmond, Washington, uses priority-based budgeting, which requires a lot of organizational energy--meaning the process starts early in the year and involves a lot of city staff as well as community input. Observers often ask if all this effort is worth it, and the answer is yes--although an explanation is necessary. This article illustrates how Redmond's budget process is more about engaging the community and city employees in financial leadership; a solid budget is a great byproduct.
Redmond's biennial budget process starts by conducting an annual survey and other community outreach work, in an effort to stay grounded to what matters most to city residents and businesses. The budget is built around six community priorities that were identified in 2008, when this approach got underway. (Go to www.redmond.gov/ budget to see the budget.) After gathering community input, the city turns to its employees.
For each budget cycle, six new cross-organizational employee teams--called "results teams"--are formed, comprising four individuals, all volunteers. One team member is designated to lead each team, for logistical and organizational purposes. The city's most recent budget process is its fifth experience with this approach, and employee interest has grown consistently. The city tries to choose team members who aren't from an area that will be the subject of any budget proposals (e.g., a police officer or fire fighter wouldn't be assigned to the safety priority team). As a result, team members are exposed to parts of the organization they previously knew little about.
The first task of a results team is to define the high-level results the city should pursue for each assigned priority. (1) To identify the intended results, team members conduct interviews, do research, review the community input, and then discuss what they've learned and how that should inform the results. The city also now has a useful knowledge library created from research done during the previous budget processes. Based on their research, the teams define the expected results on a strategy map or some type of illustration of the city's role in each priority area.
The strategy maps inform those who have requested resources what goals and objectives will likely go forward. City staff members use this information, along with a narrative produced by the results team, to focus their budget requests. At this stage, the results teams provide...