Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Taking Time to Look at the Big Picture in St. Anthony Village

St. Anthony Village city officials recently gathered for an off-site strategic-planning session. The two-day meeting is an annual ritual that allows city officials to get away from the daily grind and
focus on the big picture.

The ritual actually dates back to the 1980s, said Mayor Jerry Faust. The first day includes the mayor, councilmembers, city manager, city clerk, department heads, some commission members, consultants, and a few guests. They review last year’s strategic plan, the progress the city made toward achieving goals, and then brainstorm ideas for new goals. On the second day, the mayor, councilmembers, city manager, and department heads create the strategic plan for the current year based on the previous day’s discussions.

While the purpose of the session is to check progress on previous goals and to establish new ones, it’s not all serious discussion. Faust said the city tries to keep the meeting light so that people feel comfortable and will engage in the process. “The social aspect is just as important as anything else,” he said. “We work together better when we get to know each other as people.”

Springsted Consultant Dave Unmacht, who has facilitated the session for several years, sets the tone for a casual and fun meeting by leading light-hearted banter among attendees. All kidding aside, though, the goal-setting meetings have resulted in major improvements for the city that might not have happened without these discussions.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of St. Anthony Village’s strategic planning is its “pyramid” approach, Unmacht said.

The pyramid has the city’s mission at the top, then the vision, and then in the wider part of the pyramid, it contains the strategic initiatives, goals, and action steps. (see the 2014 pyramid below). After the session, the pyramid is shared with residents through the city newsletter. 

Goals accomplished last year included negotiating and signing a contract with local haulers for organized garbage collection, installing a local area network for the city’s internal communications system, and reducing paper and adding space by moving many records to electronic storage. As for 2015, stay tuned!

Learn more

Think your city would benefit from strategic planning? Read a recent Minnesota Cities magazine article to learn more about it: Strategic Planning: Building a Roadmap to Success.

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