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The City Manager's Desk: Strategic Planning

Ken Armstrong, Mill Creek City Manager, discusses Mill Creek’s strategic planning process. This article is being reproduced at no charge as a public service.
Ken Armstrong, Mill Creek City Manager, writes about strategic planning. Photo credit: City of Mill Creek.

By Ken Armstrong, Mill Creek City Manager.

Editor’s note: This article was first published in the July 19, 2013 issue of the Mill Creek View. It is being reproduced with the permission of the City of Mill Creek at no cost as a service to the community.

In the last issue of the Mill Creek View, I indicated that subsequent columns would deal with topical and relevant issues.  The subject of the first article is “strategic planning.” 

There has already been a lot written in the Mill Creek View about the City’s Strategic Plan.  Despite that, many people still do not know what strategic planning is, or why it is important for the City to undergo a strategic planning process. 

So, what is strategic planning?  Strategic planning is a process within an organization that sets priorities to ensure greater unity of effort, explores future revenue streams, and adjusts an organization's direction in anticipation of an ever-changing environment.   Strategic planning is a disciplined effort that shapes and guides an organization’s decisions and actions over a five- to ten-year timeframe.  It helps define who an organization’s customers are, what the organization’s key functions are and why it does what it does.  Strategic planning helps prevent unnecessary spending in the short term, while making it easier for an organization to measure its success.   

Our modern word “strategy” comes from the Greek word strategos, which means military general.  Generals need(ed) to know what their overall goals and objectives were before they could devise and implement effective tactics to achieve those larger goals.  The same is true today for private and public organizations of all sizes.  Some companies have multiple strategic plans, which address different departments or lines of business within the company (think Boeing).  Others may have a corporate strategic plan that aligns the entire organization’s direction (i.e. Microsoft).  Some businesses refer to their strategic plan as a “business plan.”  In any case, businesses continually look toward and plan for the future in an effort to grow and/or diversify their revenue stream(s) in order to maintain their long-term success.  For businesses, this may result in changes to product lines, services and/or service levels.

It is just as important for government agencies to plan for the long term.  The City of Mill Creek’s strategic planning efforts will:

  • Establish the City’s long-term direction and priorities. 
  • Enhance Council’s awareness regarding the City’s (and surrounding area) current environment and what future influences and trends are likely to affect the City. 
  • Improve City leaders’ ability to effectively plan for and deal with present and future challenges and opportunities.
  • Ensure that the City Council and City staff are in-sync with one another with respect to the direction the City is going and what its priorities are. 
  • Ensure that public resources are spent wisely toward agreed-upon objectives.

The process of thinking and planning for the future is invaluable.  Dwight Eisenhower said, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

In the next edition of the Mill Creek View – the City of Mill Creek’s Strategic Plan. 

As always, please feel free to contact me or drop by – I welcome your feedback!

You can contact Ken at 425-921-5724 or at kena@cityofmillcreek.com.

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