I remember when I was in Cubs and Scouts as a kid that the motto ‘Be Prepared’ was regularly drilled into our heads. It’s a motto I keep with me to this day and which I put into action when working on planning exercises with local government clients around the country. This pandemic has thrown everyone’s carefully laid plans overboard and created no end of havoc for local governments in Canada and most likely all around the world.
I recently read a special article that Municipal World had published for elected officials about response to COVID. What struck me was how comprehensive, sensible and common sense it was. The reminders were not technical; they seemed to centre around being a good human, an empathetic leader, and being prepared. Credit where credit is due; here is the link to Municipal World’s article. It’s worth the quick read.
While the horse of preparation has well and truly left the barn for many municipalities, others seem to be responding much better – they were prepared. Perhaps not prepared for this scale of interruption to delivering services and collecting revenue, but certainly prepared for some business interruption.
One of the ways a community government can be prepared is with a focus on diligent planning. If Council is truly leading and providing a compelling vision for the success of the community and following that up with a living, prioritized, strategic plan to help carry out that vision, and if management has responded by developing annual business and operational plans that cascade from the vision and strategic plan, the municipality has a much better chance of identifying its core priorities at a time when much else needs to be scaled back.
Processes like a thorough investment in Priority Based Budgeting become even more important now too. Aligning the priority strategies and programs to the budget means Council has already given administration a good idea of what core businesses need to be maintained at a time of crisis.
Sticking true to a set of core values is also important now. What is the filter through which you make decisions? What’s on the table and what is absolutely off the table now? Your Vision, Mission, Values, Strategic Plan and priorities will help any council answer that question – but only if Council has created such a plan and administration has put effort into enacting Council’s priorities.
Over the past few years, we have helped tiny villages and large cities work through strategic planning and it’s always fascinating to me because it’s an exercise in developing possibilities and then narrowing them to priorities. Every councillor, mayor and reeve wants their community to be the best and I am thrilled we get a chance to walk with them as they plan to achieve their visions of successful communities. If you’re interested in how strategic planning fits within our full suite of service, check out our services page.
As always, I’m interested in your thoughts about this topic, and in particular whether your strategic plan (or lack of one) has had an impact on how you provide continuity to an uncertain public and business sector. You can find me at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @strategic_steps.
Look after yourselves.