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Mar 01

Organizational Response

Posted on March 1, 2021 at 4:27 PM by Melinda Mayo

At their meeting last month, Council adopted their latest revision to the City’s “Strategic Plan,” affirming the seven priority areas they will continue to focus on to advance toward the community vision of “…a safe, caring and economically vibrant community in which all have equitable opportunities to live, learn, work, play and prosper.” Near the end of the “Strategic Plan” is a section entitled “Organizational Response.”  This section details how the government organization—the bureaucracy— will respond to the Council’s strategic priorities.  For the next few posts, I will focus on explaining this response further and in greater detail with a pause mid-way, to talk about the proposed FY22 budget.

Values, Framework, and Strategies 

The Organizational Response outlines how the City government will respond to each of the Council’s priorities, take action, and deliver services.  This outline includes a set of six core values that guide the conduct of the organization and its 1,700 employees.  The organizational framework clarifies the scale at which we work—one focused on long-term regional impact and the other more narrowly on the well-being of individual residents, households and businesses.  The outline includes the organization’s own set of strategies, ranging from seeking and maintaining collaborative partnerships to empowering employees.  This outline drives much of what we seek to do on a daily basis and how we go about doing it.

Core Values

For this post, I will focus in on the core values espoused by our organization.  As noted, there are six as identified in the following:

  • Integrity and Honesty
  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • Respect for Others
  • Listening and Communication 
  • Continuous Improvement
  • Accountability 

The work we do, the services we deliver, and the way we make decisions should each be grounded in these values.  A few examples of how these are used: Integrity and Honesty requires us to share information with the Council whether it is good or bad news.  It is incumbent upon us to be honest about where we are financially, what we have the capacity to actually do, and when something appears to be misaligned with our authority or the strategic direction set by Council.  These are not always pleasant conversations, but they are always necessary ones.  

We must actively seek to make our workforce as diverse as possible, and our operations as inclusive as practical.  We serve a very diverse community and can only offer the best services to that community if we are similarly as diverse.  Likewise, we fall short of achieving the benefits of that diversity if we don’t ensure all within our organization have a voice and a way to influence what we do.  A good example of this value being practiced is our employee-led Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council, which empowers employees at all levels of our organization to promote diversity and inclusion throughout the organization, and to provide direct advice to the City Manager about successes and shortcomings in these areas.  

Respect for others is infused in all we do. Regardless of your job title or specific assignment, you are deserving of the respect of your fellow employees, supervisors, and administration.  Similarly, it is expected that each of us will show that same respect to those we deliver services for and interact with, be they homeless or the most successful business owner in the City.  

Listening and communication is so critical in our organization that we have an entire work group dedicated to engagement, housed in the City Manager’s Office.  This group is responsible for ensuring robust engagement with our residents, neighborhoods, businesses, and employees.  We go to great lengths to ensure our engagement uses as many platforms as practical, and that we listen as much as we communicate.  A collection of citizen-based advisory panels ranging from neighborhood representatives to business leaders and those representing our immigrant population, are but a few examples of efforts we have in place to facilitate this open engagement.

With each year, it seems more responsibility is shifted to local government from the State and Federal levels, and the need for additional services on the local level emerge. Rarely are adequate resources provided to accommodate these new expectations.  This reality necessitates an unwavering emphasis on efficiency with the resources we are provided.  Continually seeking ways to improve our service delivery and operations is key.  We have, as an organization, opted to use LEAN as the organizing principle to advance these improvement efforts.  LEAN is considered a philosophy of continuous improvement. A lean organization focuses on increasing customer value, the elimination of waste and optimizing operations. In addition to reducing wastes and improving a specific process, LEAN is also about building a culture, one that respects all employees and enables them to pursue opportunities to improve their work and share ideas for continuous improvement (Adapted from Michigan Technology University).  These are the very same principles that have made companies such as Toyota successful.

Finally, our core values require that we be accountable to one another and to our community.  This accountability is closely related to each of the other values and directly tied to measuring outcomes.  We hold one another accountable via rules of conduct, policies, codes of ethics, professional standards, and regular evaluations.  We hold ourselves accountable to the Council and the community for the outcomes achieved by annually proposing budgets aligned with these and similarly annually reporting on our progress via a measures and indicators report.  

Perfect in Intent, If Not Application

We are not perfect in our application of each of these values in every situation or circumstance, but hopefully we are perfect in our motive or intent to strive to act in accordance with them.  

In the next post, I will focus in on the framework we utilize to guide our efforts.

-- Bob Cowell  


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