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Chesterfield County’s Strategic Plan (& How You Can Use It Today)
We just wrapped up the TLG (Transforming Local Government) 2015 Conference in Phoenix, AZ, and were impressed by Chesterfield County’s presentation. We’ve recapped the session and our key takeaways below.
The local leadership of Chesterfield County, Virginia, found themselves dealing with a gap between their organizational strategic plan and their budgeting process. This issue was amplified due to system complexities, leaving the departments without easy access to the information they needed to make data-driven budget decisions.
To make matters more difficult (and increasingly urgent), the existing strategic plan was expiring at the end of the year in 2014, and they needed to start the execution of their new strategic plan in year one.
Chesterfield leadership came to the conclusion that even though parts of their current system were effective, the plan as a whole had flaws.
In an effort to handle these issues, “Blueprint Chesterfield” was born. Blueprint Chesterfield is a performance excellence framework that enables leadership in Chesterfield County to “focus results, evaluate efforts, create priorities, and allocate resources accordingly” (via the Blueprint Chesterfield Case Study). It is made up of the following four parts: strategic planning, division priorities, department priorities, and program budgets
Executing Your Strategic Plan (& Handling Challenges)
1. It uses relevant information to inform future decisions, instead of dealing with budgeting and planning in separate conversations. The budgeting information is simplified to the extent that anyone can read and comprehend the information in the framework. (You can find a copy of their budget here.)
2. Processes are simplified significantly and are easy to communicate and understand. Division and department priorities are identified to align with the county’s goals. This gives county divisions and departments a clear line of sight to the accomplishment of the county’s strategic plan.
3. A single, unified database of information is created. Pre-Blueprint, important county information was coming from five different data sources (making the process to extract the pertinent data a difficult one). A one-page, unified strategic plan was created to help divisions, departments and individuals avoid confusion. Scorecards were developed, which made data easier to access and analyze.
4. Individuals easily understand how and why their contributions are important. Engaging your employees through your strategic plan is one of the best ways to make sure your strategic plan isn’t a bust. Chesterfield rolled out a new marketing campaign, which asked individuals, “What’s Your Blueprint?” (In other words, what’s your contribution to overall success?)
5. The newly-implemented system can be evaluated as a whole. Blueprint Chesterfield’s framework allows every employee to understand what’s most important for the county, their division and their department. Jay Stegmaier, Chesterfield’s County Administrator, stated that he wanted a framework that clearly communicated the organization’s priorities so employees could work more effectively together, or in his words, "row in the same direction." The Chesterfield team noted that having a good strategic plan is just one piece the puzzle. Blueprint Chesterfield’s framework is an intentional effort to close the gap between planning and budgeting.
Keep It Simple, Keep It Relevant
From this, our takeaway was:
1. Keep it simple. If you want to have success with your strategic planning and budgeting system, it needs to be clear, concise and easy to communicate to a variety of audiences. Chesterfield County did this by branding and marketing the ‘system’ as a whole. The system includes a one-page strategic plan, division and department priorities that could fit on a postcard and a budget-in-brief.
2. Keep it relevant. Your strategic plan needs to be closely connected (and relevant) to the issues you’re dealing with. For example, Chesterfield demonstrated its ability to “keep it relevant” by creating “how-to” documentation for each component within the Blueprint Chesterfield framework. This information includes why each component is important, examples, helpful hints and a means for evaluation. In Chesterfield it was never a question of whether they should align planning and budgeting; it was a matter of creating a system that made it easier to participate, which resulted in something that made sense.
For More Information
It is our hope that this information will help you create and execute your own successful strategic blueprint in no time.
For more information on Blueprint Chesterfield, and how you can implement a similar strategic plan locally, download a case study of their framework. The link to that document can be found in this article. You can also download a copy of the Chesterfield County Strategic Plan for 2015-2019, which details their mission, vision, values, and objectives.