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Monday, March 9, 2009

What is the City Manager Thinking?

Well, that asumes that he is thinking.... And here is what I'm thinking about right now; I just read the articles: (shown below) by James H. Svara and Karen Thoreson.

Six Characteristics of Innovative Local Government

In the article “Learning from Award-Winning Innovations in Local Government,” soon to be published in ICMA’s 2009 edition of The Municipal Year Book, we have looked for important examples of innovations recognized in local governments. Drawn from winners and finalists in awards programs of ICMA and the Alliance for Innovation and from case studies selected for presentation at the Alliance annual Transforming Local Government conference, the 28 exemplary examples reflect a sampling of new approaches being undertaken by local governments from the hundreds of submissions for these programs.

They reflect efforts to strengthen communities, remake the locality (Mark's note: "sense of place"), promote health and safety, advance sustainability, develop new forms of E-Gov, and improve organizational design and process. The cases illustrate the new ideas and breakthrough approaches as well as leading examples of transplanting, adapting, and recombining ideas that other jurisdictions have used in order to address a pressing local need or pursue an opportunity in a creative way.

We also examine the shared elements across the organizations that differ in size, region, and governmental type. The organizations manifested varying levels of the following six characteristics:

Leadership – Individuals and groups took the lead in initiating change at all levels of the organization, from elected officials and top administrators to mid-level and front-line staff. The organizational culture supports change, and councils and managers provided critical support even if they were not the initiators.

Creativity – Regular questioning of the status quo occurs in innovative organizations. There is encouragement to seek new ideas, an acceptance of risks, and willingness to adapt and change how the organization operates.

Internal Collaboration- Innovative organizations rarely operate in departmental silos. Cross functional teams are the norm and are staffed by personnel from numerous disciplines and levels of the organization.

External Partnerships – The connections do not stop at the organizational boundaries. Partnerships were formed with other governments, nonprofits, and businesses. Innovative organizations go beyond the quid pro quo arrangements with other groups to sharing of goals and values.

Community Connections – The local governments studied demonstrated a high level of engagement with their citizens and visa versa. Citizens may initiate the change, act as partners in creating new approaches, and demonstrate willingness to accept new approaches.

Results Focused –Organizations that value innovation are looking for results. They evaluate the impact of change with real metrics, recognizing costs, benefits and beneficiaries.

Innovation is neither a fluke nor a science. It takes sustained effort and focus to develop, but it also requires an openness to new ideas, to the unexpected, and previously unrecognized opportunities. If leaders promote the six elements outlined above in their organizations, the likelihood of creating a successful innovation organization is greatly improved.

Dr. James H. Svara is on the board of directors for The Alliance for Innovation, and he is professor in the School of Public Affairs and director of the Center for Urban Innovation, at Arizona State University. Comments can be sent to james.svara@asu.edu.
Karen Thoreson is the Chief Operating Officer of the Alliance for Innovation and deputy director of the Center for Urban Innovation, at Arizona State University. Questions about the award programs of the Alliance for Innovation can be sent to kthoreson@transformgov.org.

Some of this information seems very theoretical to me, but I agree with what it says.

Rogers City needs to do the things it talks about to survive during this economic crisis. We need to work together both in and outside of government. We need to connect with people in our community. We must be results oriented, to get the job of local government done at low cost and to the best of our ability.

I try to balance day-to-day practicality with a thoughtful consideration for the theories of experts, pundits, and local citizens alike. Come talk to me about your City government.... What are we doing right, wrong, or not at all?

I want to hear from each of you.

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