Kent Strategic Plan Deployment
The municipal organization for Kent consists of diverse business units (i.e., Police Department, Fire Department, Public Service, Finance, Human Resources, Recreation, etc.) that operate across a wide range of independent service areas. Each City department contends with the pressures of expanding service areas, increasing service demands and rising performance expectations while competing for limited organizational resources. In this dynamic environment it is easy for the organization to lose focus but the achievement of the city’s mission ultimately depends upon a centralizing vision that is capable of sustaining alignment of purpose across all levels of the organization.
Strategies, plans and tactics may change but organizational direction must remain anchored by the City’s vision and that vision must serve as an organizing principle for decisions made throughout the organization every day. Sustaining that focus is the principle function of leadership, and in today’s municipal environment, leadership has become a part of everyone’s job. Leadership talent and responsibility are not bound by rank, and leadership opportunities exist at every level of city government, so the City works hard to expose employees to leadership concepts and to develop a framework that facilitates leadership efforts by everyone in the organization.
Bias for Action
Leadership theory is only as valuable as the action it produces, and in that spirit the City staff created a “Leadership Deployment” Model to provide a framework where theories can be put to work. The Model offers a visual representation of how the city’s leadership philosophies, business strategies, management systems and job duties combine to create an environment where the employees and the organization can succeed. The Model is designed in a 3-dimensional format to reflect the depth of perspective that employees must maintain in order to be effective leaders in today’s multi-layered organizational reality.
The Model provides cross-sectional views inside the organization to illustrate how the disparate services, organizational layers, and employee activities are in-fact bound together by shared values, common purposes and consistency of practices. The deployment framework is intended to infuse the work culture with a bias for action, where employees are empowered with both the knowledge and authority necessary to make the right decisions for their work units and the organization as a whole. The framework is available for employees to use to engage the full capacity of the organization so that it is capable of simultaneously recognizing and responding to changes in the service market without losing focus on strategic community priorities.
As a municipal organization, individual citizen service needs are central to the Kent Model. In their own ways, all levels of the Model are striving to improve service, reduce costs and advance citizen quality of life. However, the ultimate expression of individual needs is translated into community value where aggregate community benefit is intended to be greater than individual self-interest.
Community prosperity is too important to leave to chance, so the city of Kent has worked hard to manage community development and act as an agent for progress. Managing is more than just paying closer attention and having good intentions, it is about creating high performance systems in a leadership framework where the right information, right decisions and right actions are evident and acted upon at the right time. The private sector has been using business models for decades to organize resources to maximize profit, so it seemed appropriate for the city to learn from the business community and develop its own governance model to maximize community prosperity.
A highly complex issue like community prosperity requires a systematic approach to management, where the focus can seamlessly zoom-in on important details, e.g., citizen complaint, and seamlessly zoom-out to reveal their connections to broad community priorities, e.g., quality of life. The framework of the city’s Model has the flexibility to act like a shock absorber that self-adjusts inward to consider the smallest details and back-out with the pull of macro-processes without ever losing the connection between the two. It is this linkage across levels of organization perspective that helps the organization stay on task, be more mission driven and less reactionary.
Building a prosperous community has a lot in common with building a successful organization. Change is an imperative in both worlds and leaders in both arenas must contend with the uncertainty and risk inherent in change that fuels reluctance and resistance. While leaders can not eliminate uncertainty they can improve their navigation capacity to safely reach the destination while passing through unchartered waters. To that end, the Kent Model is offered as a reference guide to use to steer the ship through potentially difficult waters and arrive at their desired ports of call.
Peter Drucker said that one of the hardest – but most important – things in business is defining and understanding what business you are really in. Among all the different things that you do, what is that you do better than anyone else? What is your core product or service? Are you in the train business or the transportation business? Do you sell cars or a lifestyle? The answers to these types of questions are equally important and elusive in building community. People rightfully want the best of both worlds – they want to keep all that is good about their community and lose the bad. So just like in business, the art of progress in communities is to preserve order amid change and to likewise preserve change amid order.
Governance is at its best when it can frame the discussions to produce an understanding of what the common good and common bad look like and then effect the necessary strategic actions to fulfill the community objectives.