Without both, a municipality or school system will fail to serve its residents fully. If a community successfully envisions a desired future but fails to take relevant steps to make it a reality, it won't happen. Conversely, if officials simply forge ahead -- "doing what's always been done" -- without a clear framework for what they're trying to accomplish, there is little likelihood they will successfully meet expectations. As the old adage says, "If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there".
The role of strategic governance is to help leaders and residents create a desired future. Strategic governance consists of two separate, related activities. The first engages citizens and officials in identifying what matters most to their community and in envisioning a desired future in which those outcomes are attained and preserved. This is strategic thinking; it helps people decide what to achieve.
The second involves making that vision a reality. It entails framing and managing strategic initiatives as well as the day-to-day efforts of running a municipality or school system. This is operational governance; it helps ensure that the right things get done at the right time for the right expenditure of tax dollars, i.e., how to achieve it.
Strategic governance creates a virtuous cycle in which everyone sees and contributes to shaping the future of the community. Through the creation of departmental plans, people gain a sense of what it may take to keep the community and schools running effectively and of what resources might be available for broader investments.
No plan, however strategic, should remain static, because we live in a constantly changing environment. So our process calls for plans to be refreshed at least annually to serve as relevant and useful guideposts. Plans are more likely to be achieved if people believe they are pragmatic and match the reality they deal with daily.
Strategic governance enables communities to understand their past, envision the future, and manage the present.
The plans also help government school officials frame the larger issues affecting the quality of life of their community. These, in turn, set the stage for dialogue and priority setting with residents who help support multi-year perspectives rather than focusing on the next annual budget.
For a more detailed white paper on strategic governance for municipalities, click here.