The value of strategic planning during a Crisis

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City Manager Doug Gilchrist at Stuart Park

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By Doug Gilchrist | May 24, 2020

The importance of strategic planning at the local government level is never more apparent than in the midst of a crisis. As COVID-19 tests our community in unprecedented ways, cities around the world are being forced to grapple with rapid changes – and Kelowna is no exception. The current crisis is accelerating the pace and magnitude of those changes. However, with good strategic planning, we can proactively adapt and ensure that Kelowna remains a great place to; live, invest and do business.

Strategic planning and active management involves measuring our progress frequently and using data as evidence to make better decisions that help us achieve the intended results. However, it is not something an organization can just start doing in response to a crisis. To be effective, plans and practices need to be in place before a crisis hits so they can guide the rapid decision-making that is required. Good strategic planning helps us make decisions that not only address immediate concerns but also set us up for a better future by enabling us to be more resilient, focused and flexible.

This is why I am proud to present our first progress report on the direction the City of Kelowna, which we unveiled over a year ago. The Council Priorities 2019-2022 provided clear direction for where we want to go and a commitment to measure and monitor our progress transparently. With COVID-19 these priorities will need to be revisited to see if they still serve us well as we adjust to a changing environment. However, the strong basis of performance management and extensive use of data, will help allows us to pivot quickly.

Council Priorities 2019-2022 acknowledged the need to “proactively evaluate the changes in our external environment” and adapt our plans as necessary. We just didn’t think the changes would be this soon and this significant. I believe our upfront planning helped us be agile and respond quickly to the COVID-19 crisis and implement a series of measures to support our residents, businesses, reduce taxation and maintain vital City services. We are also actively involved in economic recovery and will continue to invest in important projects that will make a difference for our residents.

The citizens of Kelowna have outlined their vision for our community in Imagine Kelowna. City Council is putting that vision into action by identifying the priority focus areas where our residents want to see positive change. Similarly, the City’s senior management team outlined what is required to ensure that we are a high-performing and resilient organization that delivers good value for money to our residents.

A key component of strategic planning and delivering value is measuring, monitoring and public reporting of results. It’s important that residents are able to see the progress we are making, the changes we are implementing to better achieve our goals, and how we are adapting to external circumstances. This accountability is vital to providing good governance and effective management and is especially important in an era when trust in public institutions is eroding.

I’m pleased that this progress report demonstrates the strong fundamentals we have in place to ensure success, transparency, and ultimately, credibility in the eyes of our citizens.  We will weather this storm, delivering the services residents expect of us while we maintain, expand and build new infrastructure that makes Kelowna a great place to live, visit and conduct business.  

 

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