Embracing change can be hard, but if the City of Vaughan’s success is any indication, sometimes change is what you need.
The City of Vaughan is in the midst of a transformation from a suburban municipality into a world-class city. It is one of the fastest growing cities in Ontario offering residents many live, work and play opportunities. Important to the planning and development of Vaughan is healthy people and healthy communities that make up the city. They have many exciting initiatives that include expanding its horizons and reaching out on an international level to elevate the City to the next level and compete on a global scale. They are building a great city that is renowned for its first-class administration, its transparency, its accountability and its respect for the taxpayers’ dollars.
The vision for the future of Vaughan is clear – a vibrant, multicultural community that is inclusive and progressive; a city that is environmentally responsible and sustainable; a strong, healthy and prosperous community where diversity, innovation and opportunity are encouraged for all citizens. However, like many municipalities, they are challenged with balancing tax-payers’ dollars, identifying priorities and following through with commitments to their council, residents and stakeholders.
A time for a new strategy
In 2007, they built and rolled out one of their first strategic plans: the Vaughan Vision 2020. Soon after the new vision was approved by the City Council, they recognized their first roadblock.
After annually reviewing their priority initiatives for several years, they acknowledged that they were still not overcoming the initial challenge of consistently demonstrating how they were doing at achieving the goals and objectives set forth in their Strategic Plan and Operational Business Plans. They recognized the need to develop a performance measurement scorecard to not only help their citizens, but also engage employees and lead impactful internal and external change. The first dashboard created was used to track performance measures internally and provide the data necessary for the newly launched, public-facing How Do We Measure Up? Website.
In 2013, with a new City Manager joining the Leadership Team, the City embarked on a six-month transition process called ‘Building Capacity and Focus’ to design and implement an innovative approach to developing a refocused strategic plan aimed at fostering a shared vision and culture of Service Excellence throughout all City services and operations. At the end of this process, the City of Vaughan achieved unanimous council approval of a refocused Service Excellence Strategy; a shared mindset and commitment to Service Excellence; and an organizational design and alignment of the City’s three-year budget with the priorities and goals of the Strategic Plan.
Most importantly, as a result of this refocused strategy, they also made the commitment for regular progress reporting on the status of the Strategy Map. This included introducing a new process of developing and tracking performance measures. They recognized that without concrete data, they were having difficulty expressing how they were actually performing and backing up their claims.
A comprehensive system to track everything
In 2014, the City of Vaughan took their commitment to strategy and performance management a step further with the implementation of ClearPoint Strategy as their primary corporate performance measurement tool. In terms of the strategic piece of the puzzle, the City employed ClearPoint to create linkages and show alignment between the elements in their strategic plan, as well as to create and display their public-facing performance measures.
On the operational side of things, ClearPoint helped to play an integral role in establishing dashboards for each department to exhibit the relationships between performance measures and departmental initiatives.
Stepping back and reevaluating
The City had gained widespread momentum and had developed a system that worked. With another change in leadership, they conducted an assessment and review of the City’s initiatives as well as a review of their 2020 Vision as a whole. They developed a refocused plan with the launch of their Service Excellence Strategy Map, as well as added in monthly progress reports in addition to their annual presentations to the City Council.
Today, the City is preparing to achieve an even higher level of excellence. They are preparing a second Report to Council, have developed a revised template, and have created even further alignment between their performance measures and Service Excellence Strategy Map. They are also continuing the integration of performance measures into the department business plans and monthly project reporting.
With the development of their management scorecard, they have been able to ground their performance measures in real data, and create capacity so that resources can be aligned to be more effective and productive. Most importantly, they are leading impactful change, focusing employees’ attention towards what matters, and improving the citizen experience overall.
Embracing change can be hard, but if the City of Vaughan’s success is any indication, sometimes change is what you need. After all, strategy is an iterative process.