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  • Writer's pictureJacquie Hansen

Achieving your Strategic Plan with a Tactical Plan

The New Year has arrived, and with it are the dreaded resolutions! Well, to be fair, some are dreaded, while others just make good sense! The trick to resolutions is taking small steps and creating achievable goals.  


Experts say that to achieve your goals, you need to be SMART - Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. Whether you are an individual looking to improve aspects of your personal life or maybe become better at your job, the SMART goals make sense in any scenario.  


Local government is no different. Councils have taken the time (or should take the time) to create a strategic plan, directing their municipalities into the future. This plan usually includes a vision and mission with strategic goals that focus on boosting the economy, improving infrastructure and environmental stewardship, improving the quality of life for residents, and ensuring organizational excellence. These are big, hairy, audacious goals! If you are the CAO of this municipality, how do you deliver on all this strategic change and improvement that Council wants? 


The answer is to create a plan with achievable, measurable goals and tactics. These plans are often called Operational plans (Ops plans), Corporate Plans, or Business plans. Essentially, they are designed to take those big, hairy, audacious goals and move the needle on Council’s goals through the development and implementation of measurable tactics. Easier said than done.  


Let’s face it: in reality, the day-to-day work for any municipality takes up about 85% of the total workload – snow removal, paving, transportation, parks and recreational maintenance, utilities, etc. This leaves about 15% to dedicate to strategic plan progress. The time of 15% is precious and needs to be utilized in a very efficient and effective way. That’s where the corporate or operational plan comes in handy. If you don’t have this plan, how do you report to council on strategic progress without putting undue pressure on your staff?  


The truth is not all CAOs have experience in creating corporate plans, so if you are that CAO, where do you start? Corporate plans can be daunting because they require a major amount of staff collaboration and coordination. They require a thoughtful approach in order to meet the long-, mid-, and short-term goals of the strategic plan.  


Senior staff need to buy in, the goals need to be divvied up to spread the workload, and there are usually countless meetings to articulate a corporate plan that meets the needs of Council. The good news is that CAOs don’t have to reinvent the wheel, and there are many kinds of corporate plans out there now. As well, there are organizations that can facilitate the development of your plan and provide amazing software to ease the pain on staff as well as easing the time it takes to gather information for quarterly reporting. 


The corporate (or operational) plan is your best chance of making progress with the strategic plan. A good plan will outline the activity (tactics) to achieve the goal, it will provide progress on each of the council’s goals, and it will provide context to each area of focus on why or why not the goals have been difficult to achieve. As well, and maybe most importantly, a corporate plan will ready your staff who, let’s face it, take the hard questions from Council on why strategic goals are on track or not.  


The strategic plan looks well into the future. The corporate plan makes that future attainable. You really can’t have one without the other! There is support out there; don’t try to do this alone. Make a resolution to be even more SMART for this new year and realize that bright future for your municipality!  


If you have experience working with a corporate plan, what benefit do you see it bringing to your municipality?  


As always, you can reach me at jacquie@strategicsteps.ca . 

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