David Osbourne wrote in Banishing Bureaucracy, “Reinvention is the fundamental transformation of public systems and organizations to create dramatic increases in their effectiveness, efficiency, adaptability and capacity to innovate.” Facing financial challenges several years ago, Peoria County was forced to reduce its workforce by 8 percent and had to borrow money to cover payroll. To avoid making difficult decisions regarding reductions in community service and county personnel on an annual basis, the Peoria County Board decided to reinvent the organization by incorporating a winning strategy: adopting an effective strategic planning process.
Now, the county annually develops and administers effective action steps to ensure the success of our strategic plan. By providing direction for allocating county government resources and for making policy decisions, this plan has resulted in Peoria County becoming the region’s best value in local government.
In 2001, the board initiated the strategic planning process to address two important concerns: where is the county currently in terms of financial stability and service capability, and where will the county be five, 10, and 15 years from now? The county board members determined where we were currently by recognizing our top 10 accomplishments of the previous year and envisioned where we want to be by identifying several overriding themes. These themes were developed into five goals the county is focusing its energies and resources on over the next five years:
• A financially solvent county government.
• Partnering for success with our citizens and other governments.
• Planned, quality growth.
• Quality services delivered in a professional manner.
• Growing the economy.
Of course, no strategic plan can succeed without an effective execution. Each goal was appointed specific objectives as guidance for both the county and the community. So the next step in the strategic planning process was to develop and implement an action plan that identified items to be completed during the upcoming year. To stay focused on the five goals, a new policy and management agenda are formed annually and prioritized to address pertinent issues. This year’s action agenda includes items such as city/county cooperative efforts in service delivery and economic development services with the Economic Development Council (EDC), the adoption of a building code and a new subdivision ordinance, a management audit at Bel-Wood Nursing Home, and increasing awareness of county government services. Accountability for execution rests with the county administrator and his management team; progress of each item is monitored during monthly committee meetings to guarantee its success within the established time frame of one year.
While individual agenda items address short-term goals, a strategic plan, once implemented, should include a vision statement and guiding principles to help maintain focus on long-term goals. When Peoria County identified the reality of where we were, we also identified a vision of where we want to be by creating a vision statement: “Peoria is a growing county that has balanced development with preservation of our farmland. Our residents live in a safe environment and have an opportunity for healthy living. Our community values diversity and quality public and private education. Our County has partnered with others to have a strong, diverse local economy with job opportunities, and to provide efficient and excellent services.”
The nine principles that guide our vision serve as a checks and balances system for all future policies, decisions, plans, and actions. If a policy doesn’t meet the standards set forth by our guiding principles, it isn’t in keeping with our vision for the future and, therefore, shall not be implemented.
Once our preferred future was put on paper as a vision statement, the focus shifted to how the vision would be accomplished. County government is mandated to perform certain services; these services must be considered when each core business within the county develops its business plan. By adhering to its plan, the core business improves and provides better service to its citizens. Scrutiny of each business plan led to the development of a mission statement denoting the primary principles that define our desired approach to service.
To encourage support within each core business, we identified values that best complement both our vision and our mission. These values are the behaviors that county board members, as the elected representatives of the community, expect employees of county government to espouse in their daily activities: service, productivity, integrity, responsibility, initiative, and teamwork.
Like most successful strategies, a strategic plan evolves over time. After years of evolution, our strategic plan consists of a vision that outlines our preferred future and enumerates nine guiding principles. From our vision evolved a plan that defines goals the county needs to concentrate on and identifies strategies to achieve those goals. Execution of this plan is crucial to the success of our vision. We execute our plan by identifying and completing new policy and management agenda items annually. We validate our mission and demonstrate our core beliefs by executing these agenda items with unsurpassed service for the community.
Several years ago, Peoria County reinvented itself by developing a strategic plan to provide guidance for allocating resources and for making policy decisions. Indeed, successful execution of the strategic plan has enabled Peoria County to become more effective, efficient, adaptable, and innovative. Since the plan’s initiation, financial and policy decisions not in accordance with the plan have been eliminated, and the county has transformed itself from financial hardship that resulted in service and personnel reductions to financial solvency that now makes us the region’s best value in local government. This is a distinction Peoria County is committed to retaining by embracing our beliefs, espousing our mission, executing our plan, and realizing our vision. IBI