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Strategy for success: decide your destination, choose your route

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Local authorities have never had it easy, but a combination of the global economic crisis, some of the biggest funding cuts in memory and high expectations of service delivery means that now is proving a particularly difficult time.

This context and government initiatives like Big Society mean councils are encouraged to involve the community in the design and delivery of all services. Local authorities are also commissioning a growing number of services, which means that a clear strategy is arguably more important now than it has ever been.

It’s unlikely that any organisation - public or private - would be successful without clarity about where it is going and how it will get there. Furthermore, strategy is an effective way of communicating with stakeholders such as health providers, police and fire services and the third sector and producing shared ideas.

Despite the benefits, there are challenges in implementing strategy. The statutory requirements of councils are not clear in terms of services required or prescribed forms of these services.

Previous performance management regimes have encouraged the production of literally thousands of documents labelled ‘strategy’ - many of which may not deserve the title.

Without a reliable process for innovation, councils can feel ‘trapped’ with today’s tools and therefore may not make commitments that require more than this.

So, what does a great strategy look like?

Seek to understand what knowledge is available. Then, challenge the organisation to understand boundaries better and consider them from new perspectives;

Consider the value of conversation. In development and implementation, interactionwith other people is vital in bringing strategy to life;

Be bold. Having understood the world as it is and as it can be in the future, make clear what the destination is and what the levers are for getting there;

Back yourself to achieve. Confidence is an important part of achieving strategic goals. If the organisation (orgroup of organisations) is engaged, has clear guidance and feels it can, it will more often than not, find ways to bridge any gaps.

Andy Theedom, principal consultant, Capita


For more on strategy in local government visit CAPITA.CO.UK/CONSULTING

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