It’s to a municipality’s benefit to mobilize its resources to undertake projects that best meet the needs and expectations of its citizens.
Managing priorities in a municipal context can be complicated. Municipalities are now recognized as the government of proximity with a role that goes beyond managing infrastructure and urban planning to encompass increased economic, social and cultural development and safeguarding and developing natural spaces. Additionally, they must often deal with an increasing number of stakeholders with diverse expectations.
With a wide range of potential activities and limited financial manoeuvrability, elected officials must regularly decide between projects that are equally important but difficult to compare. How can they approach this process?
Strategic directions: the basis for effective management
Strategic directions are the result of a structured, or strategic, four-step planning process:
1. Analyze the internal and external environment
The first step consists in analyzing the organization’s strengths and weaknesses and the external environment’s opportunities and threats. These analyses will reveal uncover the major issues facing the municipality in the coming years.
2. Consult citizens
The elected officials will then have the requisite information to consult citizens about their concerns and vision of the municipality’s future. These consultations must be mobilizing and serve as a catalyst to define a common vision.
3. Adopt a clear vision
The vision adopted by the elected officials and citizens must be a powerful tool to mobilize and direct the organization towards long-term objectives.
4. Define strategic directions
These will be the starting point for determining priorities.
Strategic directions guide the short- and medium-term deployment of actions to address the issues, establish major projects and communicate the municipal council’s priority intentions. They channel municipal action towards activities that will be the municipality’s focus in the next three to five years.
Relying on clear strategic directions is particularly important when considering their positive impact on organizational performance. Because they align the long-term vision with the implementation of strategies and operational plans, they ensure consistency between the municipal council’s wishes and organizational capacity and the various components of the municipality’s activities.
The municipality plays a very pivotal role during the budget process when the municipal council must decide among the various projects presented to it. Strategic directions then serve as a framework for the annual resource allocation decisions.