Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ship of State Planning

Newly elected officials and their appointed managers are about to take office all over the Nation. And many incumbents – though fewer in number this time around – are set to continue to work on their priorities.

We think of this beginning point in an administration as a time to do “Ship of State Planning” – that is, what do we want to be able to say we accomplished when we are done and ready to pass the baton to the next set of leaders?

We are elected/appointed - Now What? This is always the question when we cross the bridge from politics to policy, from campaigns to governing. What to do now with the Ship of State/County/City/Town? What to do first?

First, as quickly as possible, fill the key positions with the best possible people. People are Job One.

For Job Two, I have an unequivocal recommendation: get very clear about your Priorities and the measurable Strategic Results you want to achieve within this election cycle.

You will be asked: Why do we need to mess around with strategic planning when we have all this work to do?

Think of where you want to be at the end of your term. What story do you want to be able to tell about your leadership? What achievements do you want to be able to point to as proof of your performance?

A Strategic Plan will guide the trajectory of your term in office. Think of it as your Leadership Agenda. Think of the work NASA does to calculate a mission to the moon. The work of governing is not nearly that precise, but you will stand a greater chance of landing on your moon – that is, of achieving your Priorities – if you start out knowing where you want to go. Knowing your destination will minimize mid-course corrections and wasted energy.

We have had the privilege of working with hundreds of elected officials over the past twelve years and they have taught us so much. One of the key points of learning is that incumbents need to make two cases for re-election. One is that you are aligned to the right issues and the right people. The second is the value proposition - I spent your money in this way and achieved these results. The first is a political case for re-election and the second is the business case for re-election.

Priorities and Strategic Results will define your agenda and fuel community and employee participation in achieving your Priorities. The Priorities can easily transfer from a well-developed campaign platform; we’ve seen this happen many times.

Measurable Strategic Results will give direction to the organization to begin right away aligning the budget, departmental plans, initiatives and people to achieve your Priorities. You will have a very limited number of budgets to align to your agenda so get started early. The Strategic Results will provide measurable accountability back to the community for results achieved and give departments specific, measurable goals to shoot for.

In cities and counties across the Nation where we have worked, elected officials have relentlessly used their Strategic Plans to rally community support, align their budgets and communicate expectations throughout their organizations.

I encourage you to take a look at Maricopa County’s Strategic Plan, an excellent example of a jurisdiction-wide plan --

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