Sunday, December 29, 2013

Strategery part next

Goochland’s supervisors continued to work on their short term strategic plan during a December 3 workshop. They focused, under the guidance of consultant Lori Strumpf, retained to facilitate the task, on vision, mission statement, and goals.
Board Chair Ken Peterson, District 5, expects the strategic plan will help supervisors make decisions based on carefully considered, long-rang priorities.

Master plans for utilities and fire-rescue, expected to be ready in the first half of 2014, should help the county and landowners identify where, and how, growth deemed appropriate by Goochland—not dictated by legislative fiat--will occur.

Strumpf contends—and has the track record to support her insights—that defining vision, mission statement, and goals and communicating their meaning to everyone in an organization can be a transformational experience. She believes that used properly, these items, often dismissed as buzzwords, are very powerful tools that can spur an organization to excellence.

Distilling vision, mission, and goals into brief, meaningful statements, however, is a daunting task.

The discussion provided evidence that this board understands that local government exists to serve the citizens and that the job of county employees is to provide excellent customer service.

One of this board’s primary goals is to keep taxes low and stable while ensuring excellent delivery of core governmental services. These include: law enforcement, education, and fire-rescue. Indeed, Goochland was ranked 85th out of the 95 counties in the Commonwealth for per capita spending, at $2,092.05 per person. (See the entire list at:

While control of cost is important, maintaining an acceptable level of citizen services—whatever that may be--is also crucial. But, just how do you know if the citizens are satisfied with their treatment by local government?

Peterson contended that everyone who interfaces with county government needs an opportunity to provide feedback to gauge operational effectiveness. Some citizens have very little contact with county government, others may have a great deal of interaction, and that can vary from year to year.

Strumpf observed that there is a difference between satisfaction with, and trust in, local government. She suggested including an interface option of some sort on the county website to supplement periodic inclusive customer satisfaction surveys. Citizens need to see reaching out for their input as a regular part of government activity not a once in a while gesture, she said.
Manuel Alvarez, Jr., District 2 said that he would like to see feedback results tabulated at least annually so the board can see how the team is doing in the eyes of the citizens. He said that would identify problem areas that need to be addressed, which will help build trust.

Strumpf, who conducted anonymous focus group sessions with a random sample of county residents, said that some groups contended that they have no voice in local government and that the board and county staff are not reaching out to them. She suggested that perhaps more could be done to eliminate this perception of non-engagement.
As the officials elected in 2011 have worked hard to solicit opinions from all of their constituents, it would seem that those who contend they have no voice have made no attempt to contact their elected officials.
Strumpf asked “what does success look like?”

Initial responses focused on demonstrable evidence of excellent stewardship, especially where money management is concerned. The supervisors concurred that working toward a clean certified annual financial report every year as external confirmation that the county is doing things right should be at or near the top of the list.

Ned Creasey, District 3, said that he wants Goochland County to be a leader in all facets of local government operations to “act as a yardstick that other counties measure themselves against.”

Getting from lofty visions to concrete action requires a competent, well-trained, and motivated workforce. Peterson contended that county employees, in order to perform at their best, need to know that the supervisors value them by investing in training, equipment and adequate compensation.
Strumpf reiterated that the vision should be short, easy to remember, and “help people know how to behave when no one is looking.”

She used Ronald Reagan’s “shining city on a hill,” and Steve Jobs’ “a computer on every desk” as examples of a vision intuitively understandable without going into details.

The supervisors searched for words to describe an ideal Goochland. The list included good stewardship; trust in those who make local government decisions; respect; transparency; fiscal integrity; concern for those who fall through the socioeconomic cracks; and protection of personal freedom.

They want to put policies in place that will set the bar of integrity and stewardship high for those who follow. Indeed, in earlier session, the supervisors identified change in the management team, which includes supervisors and county staff, as a potential threat. Right now, Goochland seems to be in sweet spot with supervisors, school board members and staff in both school and county working well together for common goals. That could change.

As Goochland can be likened to the proverbial seven blind men and an elephant—each interpolates the entire animal by the piece he touches—finding uniting themes and aspirations in a diverse population is difficult.

The completed short term strategic plan—looking out about three years--is expected to be a relatively brief document with a three page executive summary to help citizens digest it, Strumpf said.

She will distill the sentiments of the December meeting into a preliminary document that the supervisors will review at a January 7 workshop. Citizens will have an opportunity to comment on the proposed plan before it is adopted some time in 2014.

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