Why 5-Year Plans Fail
Nathan Winograd recently reminded us all via his Facebook Page that it has been more than 12 years since the City of Los Angeles promised to be No Kill within five years. That pledge happened in 2003. Now, in 2015, Los Angeles is still killing nearly half of the cats that come to the shelter, and about 25% of all animals collectively. The fact that Los Angeles has repeatedly missed their much-advertised "No Kill" date is, unfortunately, not unique. It is the norm for these highly publicized and marketed 5-Year plans. Whether it is Los Angeles, or New York, or Maricopa County, Arizona, or Waco, Texas, the story is strangely familiar... Some large, outside, national organization comes into town, offering services and a process to develop a plan to achieve No Kill in 5 years. Then, when the target date comes and goes, they simply move the goal post to a future date in time, in effect, kicking the can down the road, potentially forever, while the outside group raises money on the great "success" of the No Kill Plan. And, it is not as if these mentioned communities are the exception. They are almost exclusively the norm. And, I include the word "almost" just in case there was some 5-year-plan I don't know of that actually hit its goal. Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that the communities that celebrate No Kill Status did not tend to get there via a 5-year plan. Instead, they took a different approach: current leadership committed to No Kill and simply set about making it happen. In some communities No Kill happened literally overnight. In others, it took longer, because to be successful, No Kill needs to be embraced by all of the leadership. In cities, that includes the mayor and City Council. In private nonprofits, it includes not just the Executive Director, but also the full Board of Directors. This leads me to explain why I believe these 5-year plans [pretty much always] fail... The Cop-Out Factor Not all elected officials are bad. But one thing is certain, all of them have a lot on their plates. They need to deal with a stunning variety of concerns, ranging from public health and safety, to the environment, taxation and on and on. By necessity, their attention spans are about 2 miles wide and 2 inches deep. Therefore, for Mayors, City Council Members or County Commissioners, these 5-year plans have a big appeal: They don't have to really commit to any big change today. They can simply kick the can down the road for 5-years to a time when they are likely to no longer be holding office. So, when Los Angeles City officials announced, in 2003, that the City would be No Kill by 2008, they were, in effect, saying "We are going to kick this can down the road to a time when a different Council and Mayor will be responsible." Note: they get the attention now of appearing to be leaders, without actually needing to follow-though and do ANYTHING. Note: There is almost nothing more attractive to a politician than something that earns points with voters, but that also requires almost no commitment from them today. As a result, those selling 5-year plans to No Kill have a receptive audience. "Free" is Not Free Some organizations that offer the services of helping develop these plans say their services are "free" (with some very specific qualifications in the fine print). What they don't say is that they will not provide much support once the commitment is made, and that they will raise money from their donors, regardless of the success of the plan, and for virtually no work. Furthermore, delaying actual implementation of No Kill programs costs money. It also costs animals' lives. So, "Free" is not free. In Conclusion The next time you see a feel-good story about a community that has committed to a 5-year plan to get to No Kill, understand that you probably should not buy it. Folks selling these "5-Year Plans" are no different than this... enjoy!