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Mar 15

Operating Strategically

Posted on March 15, 2021 at 3:51 PM by Melinda Mayo

In my two most recent posts, I focused on the link between the Council’s Strategic Plan and City government’s response, and the values we rely upon in that response.  That was followed by a brief description of the organizational framework we use in responding to the Council’s priorities.  In this post I will focus on the strategies we use to advance on Council’s objectives.


To a degree, the Council’s identified priorities and the organizational core values help answer the “Why” of our organization.  The Organizational Framework and our broad strategies begin to provide the “How” we provide our services.  These are followed with specific actions that offer the “What” of our actions.

In our work, we highlight five specific strategies that help guide how we do what it is we do.  Those strategies are identified below and explained further in the following paragraphs:

  • Prioritize
  • Take Strategic Action
  • Seek and Enhance Collaborative Partnerships
  • Innovate
  • Empower Organization


The first step is to prioritize what we work on. This starts, of course, with the Council’s priorities established in the Strategic Plan, and includes priorities found in other adopted policy documents such as the Comprehensive Plan (City Plan 2040).  At their best, priorities are guided by robust community engagement and data, highlighting areas of greatest need and where our actions may be most effective.  This leads us to actions that prioritize certain services and approaches to delivery of those services.

Take Strategic Action

As with any household or business, we have limited funds, personnel, and time to apply to tasks and initiatives.  Seldom do these resources match the list of ideas or possibilities present in our community.  Effectiveness and efficiency, both of which are critical in a taxpayer-based system, require us to approach what we do strategically.  Thinking about what we are doing, why we are doing it, how it relates to our objectives, fits within our framework, and honors our core values is essential to ensure we are delivering outcomes aligned with Council priorities and that fit within our resource constraints.

Seek and Enhance Collaborative Partnerships 

Very little meaningful success in the City has or will be achieved by the City government acting independently.  In most instances, partnerships with the Commonwealth, area agencies and nonprofits, and private business, are critical to success.  Alongside these partnerships, collaboration with our regional government partners are vital.  Examples of these partnerships abound: social services, tourism, the airport, water and wastewater services, broadband services, economic development, downtown revitalization, and community events are but a few examples.


The need to seek new ways of doing things, new approaches to old services, and new partners have never been more necessary.  In the City, this includes adoption of technology upgrades and pursuit of continuous improvement—two ways we approach this strategy.  Alongside these is the importance of looking at our services through new “lenses,” such as equity, empowerment and health—each driving innovation and fresh ways of thinking and delivering services deep into our organization.  

Empower the Organization 

As noted, our resources are, and will continue to be, constrained even though demands for services will likely continue to grow.  This makes it imperative to maximize our available resources.  One way to do this is to free up the time and talent of City employees to work on new demands.  This will require us to empower our employees at all levels to be creative and to determine new ways to do what they do, so they can take on new challenges and expand the services they offer.  

These strategies help us advance on our regional long-term objectives and enable us to continue to offer services that build strength within each of our neighborhoods, corridors and districts.  The final post in this series will focus on a few of the specific actions we are taking as a Government organization in accordance with these strategies.  Prior to that post, I will offer an update on where we are in the budget development for FY22.

--Bob Cowell


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