The City of Fort Lauderdale: Building a Collaborative Strategic Plan and Improving Processes

“It’s an exciting time in Fort Lauderdale. Along with our beautiful beaches, we have a vibrant downtown, engaged neighbors, and positive economic indicators. Through the community vision process, we’ve articulated a powerful direction for the next 22 years. And our strategy management system outlines the steps to get us there—together.”

How does a local government maintain stability through a period of transition? According to Kristin Tigner, Structural Innovation Manager at the City of Fort Lauderdale, the key is to “simplify, excel, and expand.”

As a coastal community and vacationland in the heart of South Florida, Fort Lauderdale prides itself on being ‘the City you never want to leave’. 2011 marked the celebration of the City’s centennial, a milestone that offered neighbors an opportunity to reflect upon the challenges the City had overcome and the accomplishments the City had achieved. By 2012, the City was ready to get down to business with launching the development of a new vision and strategic plan, which ultimately forced the City as a whole to align and adjust.

Building a strategic plan

They began by evaluating their long-term vision. They had developed “Fast Forward Fort Lauderdale,” a community vision for the Fort Lauderdale of 2035 based on feedback from community neighbors and stakeholders. The outreach effort that took place over six months was extensive, collecting 1,562 ideas from their highly active and invested neighbors. The City was not only able to reiterate its commitment to a prosperous future through this new vision document, but also keep its neighbors happy and engaged by directly incorporating their wishes and needs into the vision itself.

The City then set out to develop its five-year strategic plan. They came up with 12 goals, 38 objectives, 191 initiatives, and 142 key performance indicators that were compiled into “Press Play Fort Lauderdale,” the City’s strategic plan for 2018.  All in all, the first five-year strategic plan incorporated 42% of the ideas from the 2035 vision plan, Fast Forward Fort Lauderdale.  Both Fast Forward Fort Lauderdale and Press Play Fort Lauderdale were unanimously approved by the City Commission in April and September 2013, respectively.

Implementing the plan, executing strategy, and adjusting as the rubber meets the road

To put the plan to action, the City developed a management system consisting of a cross-departmental, all-hands-on-deck meeting held every two months with over 100 staff present in the room for each meeting. This format, while implemented with good intent, resulted in limited collaboration, as topics were not applicable to all staff, and increased frustrations, as there was more work with no additional resources.

To address a failing system, the City restructured its meetings, created Strategic Initiative Teams intended to report out monthly progress on key initiatives, created a culture focused on cross-functional collaboration and began to address key areas for improvement within the organization, intending to encourage more strategic participation, more frequent reviews, and significantly more focused meetings. The City is also enhancing its Process Improvement Program to concentrate on excelling at core municipal functions.

The City experienced first-hand how tough change can be, but they have realized that changing the path in the middle of the journey can lead to a better place. By simplifying what they focus on, excelling at it, and then expanding to additional areas, the staff hopes the improvements will solidify Fort Lauderdale as the “City you never want to leave.”