In Case You Missed It: Strategic Planning Webinar Recap With Mike Bailey
Note: This is a guest post authored by local government financial leader, Mike Bailey.
I was recently honored to co-host a ClearGov webinar, “Driving Results through Strategic Planning – A Modern Approach for Elected Officials to Connect Policy to Accountability.” If you missed it, I took the time to highlight some of the key points below. If your organization plans to make strategic planning a priority in the coming years, I highly encourage you to check out the full webinar along with ClearGov’s new planning solution, ClearPlans.
Understanding The Challenge Officials Face In Strategic Planning
Elected officials often embark on their journeys with a vision of making a positive impact on their communities. However, once in office, they may find themselves struggling with the red tape of bureaucracy, navigating established norms, and dealing with the monotony of meetings and agendas. For newly elected officials, this challenge can be even more daunting as they must adapt to existing processes.
It can be a challenge to connect the dots between their original intentions and the day-to-day work they encounter.
However, by working together with other elected officials and leveraging the power of strategic planning, they can drive meaningful change in their communities.
The Role Of Strategic Planning
Strategic planning plays a pivotal role in bridging the gap between policy goals and effective execution. The Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) provides a helpful framework for this process and highlights the importance of clear policies that guide an organization’s operations and resource allocation.
In this way, policies become foundational in terms of informing the way the organization operates. They help align resources, structure operations, and establish financial guardrails (the dos and don’ts of how to spend money). Guided by these policies, strategic planning becomes the compass that steers the organization’s journey toward its intended goals.
The Three-Level Approach To Strategic Planning
The three-level approach to strategic planning involves:
Broad Goals: These are high-level, cross-departmental objectives that align with the organization’s mission and vision. They set the overarching direction for the organization.
Objectives: Objectives break down the broad goals into specific, measurable targets for individual departments or units within the organization.
Action Items: Action items are the specific tasks and activities that contribute to achieving the objectives. They are the operational backbone of the strategic plan and give stakeholders clear direction in their day-to-day tasks.
This three-level structure provides clarity and simplicity. It takes a big job like strategic planning and makes it easier for organizations to start the planning process and track their progress over time.
The Importance Of Flexibility In Strategic Planning
While a strategic plan may have a 5 to 10-year horizon, it’s important to revisit and tweak the plan regularly. External factors, unexpected events, and changing community needs can influence the direction of an organization, so flexibility is key. Annual reviews and updates allow organizations to stay on course while remaining responsive to evolving conditions.
Measuring Progress With Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Measuring progress is a critical aspect of strategic planning. Identifying KPIs helps organizations analyze their performance and see if they are on the right track (or not).
While some KPIs are straightforward, such as tracking crime statistics, others, like achieving community safety, may require a more layered approach. For example, an organization may need to use survey data over a period of time to evaluate how measures taken to lower crime affect the public’s perception of safety.
KPIs can be categorized into three types:
Progress Metrics: These metrics track the completion of specific tasks or projects.
Activity Metrics: Activity metrics monitor ongoing processes and efforts that contribute to achieving goals.
Outcome Metrics: Outcome metrics assess the overall impact of an organization’s actions on its community.
A Complete Ecosystem Of Performance Management
A well-implemented strategic plan creates a complete ecosystem of performance management. This ecosystem starts with the strategic plan, which informs leadership discussions and leads to the creation of sub-plans for various departments or units within the organization. These sub-plans drive day-to-day tasks and initiatives to help the organization achieve its goals.
The continuous feedback loop in this ecosystem helps organizations remain agile and responsive to changing conditions, and ensures that efforts and resource allocation align with strategic goals.
About Mike Bailey
Mike Bailey is an experienced professional in the field of local government finance and strategic planning. He has been actively involved in this field since 1980 and holds an MBA in Public Policy from Puget Sound University. Mike has a strong association with the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA), where he has been an in-house reviewer for their budget programs, having reviewed around 800 programs annually. He not only reviews but has also built budget programs that have earned awards. Mike was one of the recipients of the GFOA’s Excellence in Strategic Planning and Performance Management award.
Mike has served on the GFOA board of directors and worked as a national trainer for the organization as an independent consultant. He plays a crucial role in facilitating council and policy board retreats, focusing on developing strategic plans and long-term financial strategies. Despite his retirement, Mike remains active as a consultant and interim finance director in several cities, demonstrating his continued dedication to the field.