Strategic Planning

What Makes a Good City Strategic Plan?

city strategic plans

Some city strategic plans serve as vital roadmaps for a community. Others stay on the shelf collecting dust. So what differentiates the first group from the second?

In our experience, the plans that end up succeeding are the ones with specific actions attached. Below, we’ll show you what an actionable plan looks like in practice using the city of Maplewood as an example.

Streamline your vision

Maplewood’s City Council created six high-level priorities ranging from financial sustainability to integrated communication. These clearly defined priorities form the backbone of Maplewood’s strategic plan.

Why it works:

  • Unnecessary complications increase the odds of failure. Simple strategic plans are easier to cascade into realistic operational plans.
  • A limited set of priorities helps managers to assess whether a task fits into the big picture. If not, they can allocate time and resources elsewhere.

Create operational plans

Maplewood didn’t just create their city strategic plan and then call it a day. They considered what would move each priority forward and created operational plans to implement their vision.

For instance, for the community inclusiveness priority, they planned four cross-departmental teams focused on engagement, HR, training and communications. For the financial sustainability, they planned to reduce money spent on overtime for the fire department by overhauling training practices and moving to a full-time staffing model.

Why it works:

  • Your strategic plan is a vision of your destination; your operational plans map out what’s actually needed get there. A good action plan covers what steps you’ll take and when, along with the costs involved and who is responsible.

Keep action items SMART

Maplewood’s operational plans are full of highly specific action items. We’ve all heard that goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Reasonable, Time-bound. But how does this actually look in practice? Here’s one of Maplewoods’ goals for infrastructure and asset management:

The target is to reduce the miles of roads in poor condition each year by completing a minimum 3.5 miles of road reconstruction/rehabilitation projects per year.

Clearly defined, this objective includes a quantifiable measure of success (3.5 miles) and a specified timelines (one year). It is also realistic, since Maplewood has the teams and equipment it needs to do the work.

Why it works:

  • Getting specific about the desired outcomes gives teams concrete goals to aspire to.
  • Quantifiable Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) help leaders to monitor progress and keep staff on track.

Watch for roadblocks

Maplewood takes time to identify problems that crop up as they execute on their strategic priorities. For instance, the city had a goal to increase social media engagement by three percent in 2018. As they made progress, staff realized that depending on teams to independently post wasn’t as effective as they’d thought. Once they identified the need for a better system for soliciting ideas, they could get to work on putting one in place.

Why it works:

  • A plan that doesn’t evolve can quickly become irrelevant. When potential issues arise, take the time to consider necessary adjustments—and then recommit to execution.

Maplewood’s success shows that a clear, concise city strategic plan is a great start—but it’s still just the start. To ensure that council’s vision becomes reality, cities need operational plans with SMART goals and measurable KPIs to track their progress and keep the momentum going.

Ready to get started? Envisio’s Strategy Execution Software helps you define, align and execute all your strategic and operational plans in one place.

Cara Ong

Cara has over 15 years of experience in business and product management. She is a highly organized, results-driven, strategic executive and entrepreneur with a positive attitude towards work and life.

Cara is passionate about helping organizations find effective solutions and providing forward-thinking strategies to help them achieve their goals of operational efficiency.

In her free time, Cara enjoys acrylic painting and golf.

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