Who is your editor-in-chief?

Over the last few years, in meetings and such I always introduce myself by saying ‘I look after the PAS website’. But after reading this excellent missive from Paul Ford I’ve decided that from now on I’m ‘Editor in Chief’ at PAS. Happy to plead guilty to possessing:

“…the willingness to schedule the living sh*t out of everything, the ability to see patterns, a total dedication to shipping, and willingness to say “no”…”

You probably get our monthly email updates.  We’ve sent these out once a month for the last five years. My job is to make sure everything is ready when the next month comes around – keeping it all in a list (I now use Basecamp for this), chasing and hassling my very busy colleagues here for copy/final documents and then getting everything ready for publication with a militant commitment to making sure everything meets certain standards of readability, accessibility and usefulness. Our audience – those working in planning in local authorities – are busy people, too.

Yes, part of being Editor-in-Chief is making sure that we publish (or “ship” to use Paul Ford’s language); but also that I don’t waste our readers time and that everything we publish serves to reinforce our purpose.

Planning departments also need an Editor-in-Chief.

In the past we’ve talked about the importance of project management for planning.  Indeed we offer a support module on the very thing. But following Paul Ford’s description of editors, I think this is what planning really needs – someone with:


Willingness to drive a schedule –

 This is not just drawing up a project plan and populating your LDS. Your editor-in-Chief will get inside it and make it happen, pushing and pulling parts where necessary, creating opportunities and making the most of things that come up.


The ability to see patterns –

Plans are going to be sourced from increasingly varied and disaggregated sources (neighbourhood plans, different geographical and economic areas etc). Your editor-in-chief will be able to see the patterns across all of these as well as being able to make sense of them for everyone else.

A relentless commitment to ‘shipping’ –

Stop beavering away for years without showing your plans some light. Your editor-in-chief should be ensuring your plans go public and stays up-to-date (feeding back in outcomes from monitoring reports etc).

The ability to say “no” –

Part of making good plans is about being able to decide what is actually useful and helpful and being able to weed out the planning ‘junk’. It should be done with a relentless commitment to the customer – for my mind this is the general public – your local council tax payers. Is what you are publishing useful?  Is it readily understood?

For those that have plans in place – do you recognise these qualities in one or some of your team? Who is your editor-in-chief?


4 thoughts on “Who is your editor-in-chief?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Who is your editor-in-chief? « Planning Advisory Service -- Topsy.com

  2. you forgot the fantastic signoff.

    “Do not dispute me. I love you. Goodbye.”

    Now, if a core strategy spoke to me in language like that…

  3. In my experience, there are often too many editors-in-chief, all trying to ship products to the various audiences they see as important.

    In the end, I think being decent editor-in-chief all comes down to three things that I am only now just starting to try to do:

    1. Asking stupid (like, really stupid) questions – the ’emperor’s clothes’ principle that because no one in a meeting/discussion wants to look stupid, no one (i.e. me) asks ‘I don’t get it, what does that mean?’

    2. looking for ideas in totally unrelated places – Great communication/planning/ideas in all forms are happening all around us. Why only subscribe to planning blogs or look to publications/projects from peers in the sector? Takes a bit of imagination and confidence to transfer the idea over to fit your needs, but it’s quite satisfying when it works

    3. Focus on ‘outputs’ but think about conversations – If we set a deadline for something to happen, it’s easy to hunker down and put everything into meeting it. Then the report is published or the target is hit, but along the way we ignore the opportunity to share the process with our collegues and the final beneficiaries (which is usually the most interesting bit, especially the bits that don’t quite qoek as we expected). This kind of ties in to the ‘relentless shipping’ point.

    Anyway, worringly I’ve produced a comment almost as long as the original post – which means I’m officially ranting.

    Thanks for the insightful post.

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