The Local Government Strategy Alphabet Soup

Posted on May 5, 2021

alphabet soup

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What I’m Reading: Baldrige Framework

Strategic Plan, Community Action Plan, Sustainability Plan, Comprehensive Land Use Plan, Workforce Development Plan, Aging in Place Plan, Greenway Master Plan……

These are just a few of the dozens of strategies that those in local government interact with. There are so many different strategies that even those of us whose job is to coordinate strategies for local governments can get overwhelmed and confused at times by the sheer volume of strategies. (note that for the purpose of simplification I am using strategy to mean any adopted strategy or plan). 

A trick that I developed over the years is to think about all these different strategies as belonging to one of three categories. Those categories are broad scope, moderate scope and narrow scope. The benefit of this approach is that some strategies touch every department within a local government, some touch a handful, and some only touch the department that created them. In theory the more narrow a strategy the more likely and important it is that they will need to align to a broader strategy. Some people like to look at time horizons but I have found that to be misleading because some very narrow scope strategies have long time horizons. 

Typically the only true broad scope strategy in a local government will be its Strategic Plan. These strategies provide a broad framework for local governments, provide a vision for the community and typically touch every department and service area within a local government. In Buncombe County, for example, every department aligns its department priorities to the Strategic Plan. Typically, these strategies drive budget decisions and overall management decisions at an enterprise and departmental level. 

The second tier of strategies are moderate scope ones that likely impact a subset of departments and service areas. They tend to drive a topic area that may encompass multiple departments. A great example is a Comprehensive Land Use Plan (called a Comprehensive Plan in some communities) that helps determine future land use and development plans requiring it to impact several departments but it is not a community or organization-wide plan. Another good example would be a sustainability plan which is topical in scope but will likely impact many departments. 

The third tier of strategies are narrow scope ones that tend to be limited to a small subset of departments. A great example would be a departmental business plan or a greenway master plan that only impacts one or two departments. 

The tier one strategies are the broadest in scope and should drive all other strategies. Due to their more limited scope, tier two and three strategies should align to the tier one strategies as that provides the justification for their existence and the outcomes listed in the strategy.

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