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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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/

Who Are You? A DNA Test for Municipalities

Question MarkWe hear a lot today about ancestry testing and finding out about our heritage. Many of us want to know “who we really are.” While these tests can be fun, they can also tell us a lot about ourselves that we thought we knew but had all wrong. For instance, we may know that our ancestors emigrated from a specific country, and claim that as our heritage, but with the help of these tests, we may learn that said ancestor only briefly lived in the “country of origin” and our actual roots lie elsewhere. The test may not change some of the facts we already know; it just gave us a different way to look at them.

Today I want to talk about a DNA test for municipal units – NAICS. The North American Industry Classification System is a great way to take a new look at your community. Just like the DNA tests described above, it can tell you so much on many different levels. At the broadest level, the two digit code, you can learn what industries in general are represented in your community. You may ask, “Why is this important? I know my companies and what industries they are in” – but do you? You may have a broad thought in your head such as automotive or even supplier; but did you know that there is no category “automotive” in NAICS? Did you know that what you considered an automotive supplier could be classified as a wholesaler? This is a new way of understanding your business community and the types of companies who may find your community attractive. Now you have opened a potential pathway to new markets and opportunities to improve your tax base.

Digging deeper into the code at the three digit level allows you to get a little more specific and go from retail trade to motor parts supplier. At the four digit level, you can find that “automotive” label, but it won’t be stand alone. It will come with something like automotive parts dealer. You can get a list of NAICS classifications for your community through a database such as Hoovers. Your local librarian should be able to help you with that effort if you do not already subscribe to one.

I encourage you to take the leap and find out “who you are” with your NAICS test.

Authored by Khalfani Stephens, Director of Economic Development, City of Farmington Hills, and 2018 MEDA Board Vice President.

Economic Development is Community Development

Times are good for most people right now with memories of the great recession fading fast, but for economic developers, today is the time to “make hay while the sun shines”.

Good times have their own set of challenges, but they also provide great opportunities.   The first is that of workforce development. I remember not too many years ago when the rallying cry was “Workforce Development is Economic Development”. While it still rings true today, and there are good jobs being created in most communities, employers are having difficulty filling them and retaining workers. This is a complex issue that involves wage rates, education, skills, mobility of workers, lifestyle choices, costs of living, and many more factors. Economic developers need to work with employers and other organizations to create holistic and custom solutions that allow local people to move up the economic ladder into these higher paying jobs.

buildings-set_23-2147505271Additionally, an improving economy is creating labor shortages in the construction industry and a high demand for construction materials. This, along with rising interest rates, is pushing development costs upward. These higher costs lead to project financing gaps, which causes the private sector to ask communities for economic development.

But, in these good times, should communities agree to approve economic incentives? The answer is yes, but only if it is in the best interest of the community by taking advantage of the today’s strong economy to forge a better future for everyone. Most communities are no longer in a state of desperation where generous incentives are necessary just to attract private investment of any kind. Instead, Economic Developers can now seek to facilitate development agreements between communities, businesses, and developers that share the costs and benefits of development. Jobs, income, investment, tax revenue, business spending, infrastructure, education, training, etc., all are part of the mix and should be considered in making public decisions to approve private development incentives.

Now is the best time to for Economic Development Professionals to work with communities and businesses to demonstrate to all that Economic Development is Community Development.

Authored by: Karl Dorshimer, CEcD, EDFP, Director of Economic Development, Lansing Economic Area Partnership, and 2017 MEDA Board Treasurer