August 27, 2014

Strategic Plan takes aim at quality targets

As published in The Erin Advocate

The first draft of Erin’s Corporate Strategic Plan includes commitments to sound fiscal management, efficient operations, high quality municipal services and maintaining the attractive character of the community.

Councillors got their first look at the Plan during a special meeting on Monday this week, with a presentation by its author, Joanne Russell-Haas of The Human Factor. She is an Erin resident with experience in staff training and development of strategic plans in other municipalities.

The draft will be posted at Residents are invited to send comments and suggestions to Clerk Dina Lundy, and the final version of the Plan will come back to Town Council for approval on September 9. The time frame for the plan is 2015 to 2020.

“We are in the process of making pretty significant decisions about where Erin is going, where the priorities will be and how resources will be allocated,” said Russell-Haas, who did more than 60 hours of interviews with staff, councillors, community groups, business groups, school principals and social service providers.

A set of recognized values creates reference points for corporations when they need to make tough decisions, she said.

“All of us have a responsibility. There’s a broad spectrum of people involved, and if we all pull in the same direction, and we all have a clear sense of what that is, then there seems to be more success. Never say never. There are things that need to change, and they can.”

Monday’s meeting was well-attended, with several residents making positive comments about the Plan. Mary Venneman, who co-chaired the Town’s Equine Task Force, suggested greater emphasis on “overarching accountability”, possibly including an Annual Report to the taxpayers.

Building on the Vision Statement from the Servicing and Settlement Master Plan (process, the Strategic Plan sets out a series of Guiding Principles for Town operations.

These include transparency and integrity – dealing with public money and issues “in an honest, open and ethical manner.” There is a promise of cooperation, valuing contributions from citizens, councillors and staff, to “celebrate success and handle our differences with respect and professionalism.”

By adhering to best practices and quality service standards, staff are expected to maintain expertise in their professions and serve the public interest, capitalizing on opportunities and mitigating risks.

The Town will be expected to develop innovations that are both cost effective and environmentally focused, plan its operations to maximize efficiency and safety, and seek partnerships with volunteers and businesses to “support the overall quality of life for our residents and the economic viability of our Town.”

The plan includes a suggested Corporate Identity Tagline: “Erin, where you feel naturally inspired and genuinely at home.”

Now that the Strategic Plan is almost complete, the Town is proceeding with an Operational Review, hiring a consultant to study detailed improvements that could be made in various departments.