This guest blog is by ELGL member Melody Badgett, the Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for ChiefOfStaff.com. Read more of ChiefOfStaff.com’s contributions on local government strategic planning here.
What did you say?
When is the deadline?
How do we get that done?
Who should be involved?
Who owns this?
What’s the endgame?
Who benefits and how?
Communication and collaboration go hand-in-hand in local government to ensure the promises of Election Day are delivered to the citizenry. In fact, delivering on those promises is the key to success in local government.
What’s the difference between the two? Well that’s a good question. Communication is generally an exchange of information to gain a common understanding; collaboration is the active engagement that comes next.
Collaboration is more than talking – it’s working together to achieve common goals. The latter cannot happen without the former, and the former enriches the latter.
What role do they play in local government, and particularly in strategy execution? It turns out, Communication and Collaboration play critical roles at several levels in local government—across sectors, between partnerships and within local government entities.
The Institute for Local Government notes that “Local officials may collaborate with a variety of organizations in efforts to create healthier neighborhoods.”
Typical examples of local officials’ collaborative partners include:
- Public agencies…such as housing agencies and school districts
- Private organizations… such as electric utilities, businesses
- Nonprofit and community-based organizations
- Philanthropic organizations and foundations
To execute these cross-sector promises, partnerships must be established to bring together relevant constituents, interests and expertise.
Establishing the right partnerships—agency-to-agency or group-to-group—brings the right players together into alignment to tackle complex issues and cultivate healthier communities. Together, partners collaborate to address issues that span multiple groups within a municipality. At this level, communication and collaboration fuel both innovation and problem solving, bringing fresh thinking and learning from across disciplines, and maximizing resources to get the most bang for the collective buck.
However, each sector and each partnership is only as strong as the entities that comprise it.
Each entity around the table brings its own unique value–expertise, experience, skillset. Collaboration, when high functioning, optimizes the mix of skills and resources each entity brings, yielding better results together than alone.
However, to achieve optimal partner outcomes, strong and high functioning entities are necessary building blocks.
Any single government entity must have its own house in order to be at its strongest, healthiest, and contribute its best to an effective collaborative effort. It must be equipped to solidly deliver results, succeeding in the eyes of its constituents and stakeholders, by executing the promises on which it campaigned.
This is where Communication and Collaboration meet Strategy Execution. Within the office of the Mayor, or the Head of a Department of Public Works, for example, delivering well on strategy means getting out of siloed organizational structures and old ways of working, and opening up to work together, within and across organizational boundaries.
Harvard Business Review will tell you that one of the top reasons strategy execution fails is lack of cross-functional communication and collaboration. Without it, execution gets stuck and falls apart.
Furthermore, government and society today must operate in an increasingly fast pace of change. Siloed organizations move too slowly to succeed in such a rapidly moving environment. They lag behind. Opportunities are missed.
In order to deliver the promises made on Election day, staff and leaders within entities must equip themselves to work together. This means making visible not only promises and plans, but also those people doing the work. It means clearly communicating how they will achieve their goals set forth and collaborating with one another to get there.
It means embracing an organizational culture that supports and rewards transparency and accountability. Government entities that collaborate well can course correct and innovate better because information shared fuels timely decision-making.
A tool that enables effective Strategy Execution and facilitates collaboration can help a lot…every good farmer needs a good tractor.
In short, a local government entity that prioritizes communication and collaboration cross-functionally – across departments — is well-equipped, not only to succeed as an organization, but to work in a similar manner with its partners and across community sectors to execute well its promises to citizens, neighborhoods, counties, municipalities.
Working together matters—it develops common understanding, shared goals, aligned teams—it turns promises into results.
“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulder of giants.”—Sir Isaac Newton