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Why You Should Involve Frontline Employees in Your Planning Process

Written by: Thomas James, Park Development Specialist

Working in isolation these days has left more time for the mind to wander. Lately, I find myself reminiscing about the early days of my career. Each day was filled with excitement and learning opportunities as I discovered the ins and outs of being a member of a larger team that made the organization hum along on its mission. Every organization has team members that do essential work every day – not always the most glamorous jobs, but critical to the success of the organization nonetheless. Often overlooked, taking time to include these team members in your planning efforts can have significant impacts on the future maintenance and subsequent costs of your plan.

Park Master Plan

I recall a time early in my career when a department manager stopped to speak with me about a proposed change to the logo for the organization. I was amazed at being given the opportunity to comment. After all, I was “just” a seasonal employee. Although I had been working summers for several years, plans were more often made without asking those on the frontline, those that would be impacted by the change in operations or care of a new facility. Though the logo would not affect daily operations, I would have appreciated a similar opportunity to discuss policy or procedure changes that might.


As I progressed in my career, I tried to remember that feeling. Good comprehensive planning calls for a thorough review of all proposed elements. The impact on daily operations is an important element of any plan. Often the best sources of information regarding the care of grounds and facilities come from frontline employees, those who take pride in caring for public facilities for all to enjoy. These team members may be able to provide suggestions for minor changes to plans that don’t change the intent of the design but make maintenance simpler.

park trail

Many elements of design will impact those charged with daily care. How often do those windows require cleaning? Will the positioning or size of the windows require special equipment? Are you aware of how long it will take to clean the windows? How many trash receptacles are in the plan and how will that change collection time? Will those new picnic tables be easy to clean? Will the tables be placed on a pad to avoid having to move the tables for mowing? Will those electric fixtures be easy to access or require special equipment (i.e., a bucket truck)?

bollards in park

Elements are sometimes added to plans to assist with the management of site access. For example, bollards installed along a park driveway can keep traffic off the grass. While aesthetically pleasing, they come with a long-term cost of trimming when mowing or treating chemically to reduce trimming costs. They also invariably are hit by a mower or an errant vehicle requiring them to be replaced or straightened. And then there can be frost movement that makes that row look a lot less appealing. Is there an alternative to bollards?

The success or failure of a planned project often hinges on its long-term care. Take time to involve those charged with that care to make your project a success.


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