Creating a Blueprint for Success: The Role of Strategic Planning
by Gary Jackson, Client Services Manager
Strategic Planning for Municipalities
Strategic planning is a multi-year, roadmap comprised of a set of strategic priorities and associated goals and objectives that help organizations successfully move forward from today to the future. It’s a common-sense tool that sets a clear path to move forward, while also allowing for your vision to mature and change as time passes. Strategic planning is also a preventative measure designed to assist you in achieving maximum efficiency and effectiveness before programs and projects reach crisis level. Or, in basic management terms, strategic planning is “proactive,” instead of “reactive.”
By formalizing a plan and gathering input from the participants and stakeholders, local governments are more apt to get buy-in for their direction. With a strategic plan, the organization is focused and far more likely to be successful. But how does it work? Strategic planning helps your local government realize its long-term vision by setting up goals and objectives in a systematic, incremental manner. Simply put, it engages elected bodies in looking at what’s going on today, where they want the organization to be tomorrow, and which steps the organization will need to take to get there.
Strategic planning is a valuable tool that assists organizations of all sizes, both public and private, in planning for the future. However, the success of the process demands on the strength of its advocates. In the case of strategic planning for local governments, it can only succeed if there is unequivocal support from the chief executive, legislative body, and affected department heads.
Why do you need a strategic plan? What are the benefits?
- Yields results: A strategic plan provides a realistic, workable framework that is built upon a foundation of commitment to continuous improvement. Built into a plan are milestones that help gauge the organization’s progress.
- A valuable managerial tool: Balancing daily and long-term operations with limited resources is challenging and complex. A strategic plan assists management in determining how to perform work more efficiently and effectively, while staying within budget parameters.
- Adaptable: Internal and external environments are constantly changing. For this reason, you need to have a framework that is flexible enough to accommodate new trends, while at the same time, strong enough to adhere to your vision and strategic priorities.
- Responsive: A successful strategic plan includes those priorities that are important to the citizens as determined by their elected representatives.
- Improves communication: Strategic planning stimulates participatory dialogue and an open exchange of ideas. In this way, strategic planning shifts the focus from points of disagreement and polarization to a focus on shared aspirations.
- Customized: Every municipality is unique with different needs and aspirations. Strategic planning is a process to perform a self-assessment and then identify those objectives and parameters that are specialized and appropriate to the organization.
- Participatory: A good strategic plan involves people at all levels of government, or within the department, and requires input from everyone if it is to succeed. By involving more people among the various levels, you are fostering teamwork and a sense of ownership. The strategic planning process should involve the public, as well. Public forums, surveys, and task forces are just a few ways that a community can involve residents.
Basic elements of strategic planning?
The basic elements of strategic planning are Vision Statements, Strategic Planning Priorities, and Goals and Objectives.
Vision: Where do you want your organization to be in the future? A vision takes the conditions today and describes what tomorrow should be like. Another way of looking at vision is to see it as a statement of the results of implementing a strategic plan. The vision will help you define your goals. You can set better goals if they are aligned to attain that future vision.
Strategic Planning Priorities: What are the most important broad outcomes that the Board of Commissioners want to agree upon? Examples of strategic priorities which may be established include: economic prosperity, safe community, organizational excellence, growth management, engaged, healthy, and diverse community.
Goals and Objectives: Once the strategic priorities are set, how will you achieve the desired outcomes? What specific programs, projects, and services will be implemented to produce the desired results?
A Strategic Planning Model
McGill assisted the Town of Siler City in establishing their initial multi-year strategic plan. The successful process involved conducting an employee survey, interviewing individual elected board members, gathering community input, and facilitating a work session of the board to identify strategic priorities, goals, and objectives. The Siler City experience in establishing its plan illustrates how a well-orchestrated planning process yields valuable results.
See the Town of Siler City’s strategic plan here.
To learn more about McGill’s work with Siler City and their strategic planning, reach out to Gary Jackson, Client Services Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919.378.9111.