This 8-part series of articles, called the City of the Future, is intended to explore some of the fundamental areas of change that must be addressed to position our municipalities for the challenges that lie ahead in the early 21st Century. I invite you all to participate in the conversation. Together, we can effect change--if in no other way than at a grass roots level by helping our communities, where we live, to evolve.

A Framework for Change

Times have changed. Our population has changed. Most municipalities continue to be plagued with a multitude of financial and operational challenges, while many more Americans are moving to cities, reversing decade- long trends of settling in the suburbs. Our cities and towns are flush with tradition and old habits that continue to fortify tired ideas. Undeniably, this creates formidable issues and challenges for all involved.

City and business leaders must work together to help their cities to deliver on a new vision of governance and organizational transformation--one that will reshape city decision-making and set a sustainable tone for change in the way services are contrived and delivered to all of a city's constituents.

Here is some of what your City of the Future may look like:

Your Vision for becoming the "City of the Future" has been realized. It is not enough to provide the conventional municipal services; a city must be a leader in innovation, environmental sustainability, and social and economic justice. Your city has become progressive in anticipating and responding to the needs of its citizens. By going above and beyond, your city is now the creative and cultural center in your region.

All decision-making stems from your strategic plan. Your city is constantly forward-moving and you have a strategic plan to guide you. Knowing that a Strategic Plan is more than budget management, your city's leadership team has forged a multi-year, strategic plan from which all decisions are derived. By consistently evolving the plan, the effects of parochial agendas have been minimized and your city has been able to achieve its vision. It readily reshapes what it is and keeps the city vibrant and alive.

Leadership at City Hall has set the tone for change. Leadership skills have been honed at your city and are a driving force in aligning operations. Policies and directives are communicated effectively. Decisions are based on accurate information and made in a timely fashion. Flatter organizational structures have been introduced to meet the needs of your community and your work processes. Consequently, staff members are heard. They contribute their own ideas for improvement, and have the authority and skills to make day-to-day decisions in order deliver impeccable service. Your City, now, operates as one--a highly functioning team that share common goals and celebrate accomplishment.

Local leaders must begin to think differently about what it takes to flourish. Today's brand of management thinking calls for the creation of flatter, team-based organizational structures. So, the "silos" between individual city departments must be dashed and an integrated team that acts as one must be put in place. city and business leaders must build a roadmap that can take them from where they are today to where they need to be in the future. They need to enable all stakeholders to readily engage and participate in the necessary transformation. In this way, Cities of the Future can be realized.

The series continues tomorrow with a piece on transparency and its importance in city government. 


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Published on: Dec 1, 2014