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2 Important Takeaways From ICMA 2015
We’re breaking down our experience at the 101st ICMA conference. Here’s what you need to know.
We just got back from ICMA 2015 in Seattle, Washington. We had an amazing time attending sessions, talking to people from counties and municipalities all over the U.S., and of course, playing giant Jenga at our booth. Below, we’ve listed a couple relevant takeaways and themes from our experience.
1. The importance of strategic planning and performance management.
When we weren’t manning our booth in the exhibit hall, we were able to attend some spectacular sessions. Two of our favorites were led by Amy Knowles of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The first was “Keeping Your Plans Off The Shelf.” This session explained that the act of creating a strategic plan alone isn’t enough; you have to be willing to follow through and put the plan to work, tying the activities and projects you work on back to this plan.
The second session was “Strategic Planning 101.” It walked attendees through what Fort Lauderdale and Lake County, Illinois have both done in terms of strategic planning. Their management styles and approach to strategic planning is very different, but they’ve both seen great results.
In the session, they suggested the following:
- Get started with your strategic planning, even if the road is bumpy for a while.
- See what the community believes is a priority, and use that as a starting point.
- Make sure your citizens feel as though their concerns are being heard.
- The structure of your strategic plan may be very different from other municipalities, but as long as you’re engaging your citizens and tying your decisions back to your strategy, your approach is less important. One size does not fit all when it comes to strategy.
2. The evolution of government transparency and citizen interaction.
Another theme we saw emerge was the sharing of municipal performance with citizens and a newly sharpened focus on government transparency.
For example, during past ICMA conferences, we often heard municipalities tell us they did not have a strategic plan, even though they knew they should. This year, we saw an influx in cities and counties expressing that they were working on their performance management and were creating a strategic plan. It was very exciting to see this shift.
We also had many conversations with conference attendees about our new community dashboard. It now features a more modern design, is mobile-responsive, and simply, it’s a massive improvement in almost every way. It allows municipalities to share data online for their citizens to see, like their metrics, goal and project performance, and more. Therefore, cities and counties can publish loads of data while still controlling their own narratives around this information.
While the creators of some performance management software still advocate for placing every piece of data online, we think there are better ways to approach this. We spoke to many people who agreed that publishing 3,500 data points and leaving it up to the citizen to act as a data analyst is simply asking too much of them. These individuals echoed our beliefs that “transparency” isn’t synonymous to dumping every Excel file you have online out and forcing people to sort through it themselves. Rather, transparent local governments are making an effort to gather this data, organize it, and present it in a more digestible way. This qualitative analysis will likely be well received by citizens, and it helps them understand what the numbers mean without wasting their time.
Overall, we had an incredible time at the conference. The sessions we were able to attend were extremely well attended, and there was a great deal of interaction within them. It was particularly exciting to see the interest and excitement around strategic planning and performance management and how more and more municipalities are seeing the importance of these areas.
We always enjoy seeing our current clients and meeting those who share our passion for strategy, performance management, and transparency. We’re already signed up and looking forward to ICMA 2016, set to be held in Kansas City, Missouri. We hope to see you there!