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Top Concerns of City & County Managers

Posted May 10, 2012 11:24 AM by Dylan Miyake

The economy is swinging up and down and municipal governments are feeling the pressure. Cities and counties have had to "cut the fat" for at least the last three years.

As a participant at the recent Florida Benchmarking Consortium conference in Winter Park, Florida, I had the opportunity to listen in while managers reported their top concerns and brainstormed potential solutions. Some of these threats and/or weaknesses are specific to government while others apply more broadly.

Do any of the challenges relate to your organization? Have you found any other solutions?

Retirements and the corresponding institutional knowledge loss
o New openings can bring in new energy and innovation

Union expectations
o Clear communication of constraints and expectations builds good will and encourages collaboration

Lack of cooperation between elected officials and city employees and a lack of strategic thinking
o Building a shared vision and actually voting on it helps build alignment and understanding of shared priorities and longer-term goals

Staff jaded on the idea of "doing more with less"
o Asking staff where they need help plus utilizing tools such as Lean Six-Sigma and technology can engage employees and allow them to master their own workplace
o Encouraging calculated risk taking while also learning from "failures" encourages innovation

Over processing of everything (convoluted processes)
o Lean Six-Sigma and technology can help here as well

Training (or lack thereof)
o Formal training budgets have been cut back severely so some cities are using their own employee to run informal training programs
o Some cities are also adding an emphasis on cross-training for additional help

Rising healthcare and pension costs
o Merging healthcare and pension plans with other cities or organizations is reducing the risk and management costs

Rising procurement costs
o Cities collaborating to make cooperative purchasing agreements which allow for quantity discounts that they could not receive on their own

Collecting bad debt
o Some cities are compiling contact lists from different departments to fix old addresses
o One city found that one department was not tracking the aging on unpaid bills and implemented a tracking system that dramatically reduced bad debt
o Other cities are selling bad debt or using collection agencies

New State and Federal regulations
o Increasing connections and outreach to State and Federal legislators can the State and Federal legislator them understand the impacts of their work at the local level

Employee morale (after repeated layoffs plus pay and benefits cuts)
o Nonmonetary benefits such as awards and public recognition help remind people about the good work municipal employees are doing

Public apathy and negative coverage in the local news
o A stronger, proactive outreach effort increases engagement.
o This can be via social media, traditional media and in-person events

Insufficient performance management and accountability
o Regularly reviewing metrics against targets and benchmarks using performance management software encourages communication and adds more transparency.

Is your city facing similar challenges? Have you found other approach and/or solutions? If so, let us know in the comments section below!

Filed Under Benchmarking