Strategic Plan Still Sitting on the Shelf?

NLEA Team took part in Strategic Doing Workshop hosted by MSU Extension which taught the practice of collaborative leadership to move action items forward.

Like many organizational planning sessions, a group is hired to come in and help write a strategic plan and after hours of work the question still remains, “how do we implement this?” Oftentimes a plan either doesn’t have a sense of purpose, or it wasn’t specific enough for anyone to carry out.

To add to this lack of purpose, meetings are often ineffective: 73 percent of employees do other work in meetings and 75 percent of individuals have no formal training to run a meeting.

The problem is that our meetings and collaborative groups today are no longer hierarchical, chain-of-command type settings, and often there is nothing in place to make sure group members are accountable for work they do or don’t do. “Instead of our old habits of command and control, we have to figure out how to align and activate a network of people and organizations;” this is the concept behind Strategic Doing.

At its root, Strategic Doing can propel a small, focused group to bring something to the table and each have a role in making a project happen. With 10 simple rules, your meetings and plans can be transformed:

  1. Create and maintain a safe space for deep, focused conversations. Identify the core group of 6 action oriented individuals and meet in a space that will foster discussion.
  2. Frame conversation around appreciative question. Positive problem solving. Imagine if your community could be X? What would that look like?
  3. Uncover hidden assets among the group. Have everyone share what they bring to the table, strengths, connections, and project ideas.
  4. Link and leverage your assets to create new opportunities. You may notice aligned interests or project ideas forming, or discover contacts that could help make projects possible. Combine the group assets and you can move a project forward easier.
  5. Rank all your opportunities to find your “Big Easy.” This is the idea which will impact the most people in your community, and is relatively easy to implement. Rank the ease and impact of the projects on your list. First, each person evaluates the potential impact if it were completely successful with 5 being high and 1 being low. Next, each person evaluates how easy or difficult it would be with 5 being easy and 1 being difficult. Add everyone’s numbers then total impact and ease scores to find your “Big Easy.”
  6. Convert your “Big Easy” into an outcome with measurable characteristics. What would people see, how would they feel, and how would their lives be different?
  7. Define at least one Pathfinder Project with guideposts. This is your pilot project to help you test some assumptions that could be completed within approximately 3 to 6 months. (Could be phase one of your project to create an initial buzz)
  8. Draft an action plan with everyone taking a small step. What will each member in the group do in the next 30 days? Everyone must contribute at least an hour of their time to a part of the project, and document their contribution to the group.
  9. Set a 30/30 meeting to review progress. What has been done in the last 30 days, and what needs to happen in the next 30?
  10. Nudge, connect, and promote relentlessly to build your new habits of collaboration. Keep each other accountable and get to work.

Authored By: Andy Hayes, President, Northern Lakes Economic Alliance. Andy is a long-time member of MEDA.

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Grow Your Talent Pool

Some of us have been around long enough to remember what a tight labor market looks like. It’s certainly better than the alternative. A carefully crafted talent strategy can be the difference between winning projects and being left on the sidelines.

Building Construction 3The first step in a talent strategy is to determine who to collaborate with on implementation. You will need expertise and resources and no economic development agency has enough of either. Colleges, universities and workforce development agencies are obvious partners, but here are a few others you might consider:

  • Public sector – communities can’t grow without jobs and investment
  • Private sector – they have as much to gain as you and they might be willing to provide funding
  • Recruitment agencies – they need talent, too
  • Military branches of government – they offer a ready supply of returning veterans
  • Faith-based organizations – they have great networks
  • Public and intermediate schools – school counselors can guide and influence graduating seniors

Business Professionals2The easiest win in the talent attraction game is commuters. They drive out of your county to pursue higher pay within the region or jobs that aren’t readily available in your area. In a tight labor market, wages typically go up. Companies are desperate for talent and will provide better pay and benefits. The key to this strategy is awareness. Try posting advertisements on well-placed billboards or in newspapers outside the county to announce local job opportunities. Electronic billboards can be an affordable way to post your next job fair or list a company’s hard-to-fill engineering job.

Recruiting talent outside of your area is difficult and can be expensive. First, partner with real estate brokers to develop listings and welcome packets. You’ll need housing if you are going to recruit workforce. Second, identify markets similar to yours where available workers are located. Place advertisements in their local newspapers that point people to a jobs board or website where job postings are available. Companies might help to pay for these ads, so remember to ask.

Emerging Leaders for WebsiteOn average, about 30% of high school graduates are not going to college. This is your workforce of tomorrow. This is a great partnership opportunity for educators, the private sector and economic developers. Professional days, facility tours, company profiles on MI Bright Future and summer camps can help to educate young people regarding employment opportunities. They won’t have a lot of work experience, so promote internships and job shadowing.

These are just a few of the strategies you can employ to recruit talent to your community. As you talk to your partners, you will discover other strategies and programs. Remember that if you do nothing, your talent might be someone else’s target. So be aggressive and you can win the talent war.

Authored by: Dan Casey, Chief Executive Officer, Economic Development Alliance of St. Clair County. Dan is a Member at Large on MEDA’s Board of Directors.

Making Connections for the Betterment of Our Community

Business development is a vital piece of the puzzle in creating vibrant, successful communities. There are several tools available for municipalities to use that create revenue streams to help finance economic investment, such as business retention visits, tax increment financing, brownfield redevelopment, tax abatements, and talent and training funding just to name a few. All are examples of the core strategies and instruments utilized by the City of Auburn Hills. Most of them are funded or authorized through our State legislature.

Part of my role in business development is engaging and interacting with our elected officials in Lansing. We continually have conversations about issues impacting business and investment at the local and regional levels. As a practitioner, I work on behalf of the City and its business community to advocate why funding these programs is so important. We often invite our elected officials from the State and Federal levels to visit companies so that they can witness firsthand the success of the tools we use on a daily basis.

Last week, State Representative Tim Greimel and State Senator Jim Marleau visited BorgWarner in Auburn Hills to talk about issues in Lansing and how they will impact areas like infrastructure, health care, and schools.

The budget process in Lansing is unclear at times, but it’s important to continue to reach out to elected officials so that they can assist us in achieving sustainable growth and development, which will ultimately bring improved quality of life for the residents of Auburn Hills. My role is to work with business leaders and City officials to make these worthwhile connections. As you can imagine, it’s an exciting and rewarding job.

Authored by: Stephanie Carroll, Manager of Business Development and Community Relations. Stephanie is MEDA’s Board Secretary and Emerging Leaders Committee Chair.

Stephanie blogs regularly at https://auburnhillsdevelopment.com/