This article was written by Inga Cushman, City of Milton, WI; Administrative Services Director. Inga wrote this article as part of the Crisis Management Cohort with Drucker Institute. Read all the articles from the cohort here. Connect with Inga on LinkedIn.
As the Administrative Services Director for the City of Milton (a small community in south-central Wisconsin), I am tasked with a wide variety of job responsibilities – from human resources and communications to historic preservation and park developments. Currently, one of my major projects is working with our organization on developing a strategic plan. The last strategic plan was approved in 2007.
By participating in the Crisis Management Cohort, I was hoping to gain some new perspectives and ideas as Milton went through the strategic planning process and as we continue to navigate operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. The cohort was able to fulfill those expectations through the curriculum and conversation with others in the cohort.
I appreciated the discussions on the need to identify our new reality. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our world looks substantially different from where we were a year ago. I learned it’s important to take some time to step back and reflect on what areas have changed in our communities, how long we expect them to stay in their current state, and what programs and services still need to be changed based on the altered environment. Once we understand the new reality, it will be easier to plan for and respond to the next predictable outcome.
The cohort curriculum also discussed planned abandonment, a process of discontinuing services or programs. The worksheet accompanying the lesson asked the question, “List below any activities, programs, services, reports, procedures, and policies that you stopped doing (even if just temporarily) during the COVID-19 crisis.” This is a process our leadership team hasn’t done yet in Milton, and I think it will be a valuable exercise to complete as a group as we continue with the strategic planning process, but even more so as we head into budget season. This type of exercise may help the Council and staff potentially make some difficult decisions.
The final activity for the six-week cohort was related to identifying recurring crises and potential crises and steps our organization can take to prevent those from happening or at least reduce their impact. Through the strategic planning process, we’ve been working with our community, staff, and the Common Council to identify potential crises in the next five years so we can create goals to help mitigate them. The process laid out through the activity will be helpful to guide another conversation with staff and the Common Council to better clarify areas of concern in the next five years. Knowing and understanding the issues and challenges facing the community is the foundation to building effective goals, objectives, strategies, and actions.
Thank you to ELGL for providing this learning opportunity. It was a meaningful process and provided important exercises to share with others in our communities to move our organizations forward in the best possible way during an uncertain time in history. I’d also like to thank the others in the cohort for taking the time to participate and share their perspectives during the weekly activities and discussion boards. I look forward to participating in another cohort in the future!