How Do You Set Goals As A State And Local Government Agency?

What did governments in the past do in order to propel themselves to the future that we’re in now?

If there’s on thing that I’ll remember from history, it’s that “in 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue”. When you think about the limited supplies and resources that everyone had at the time – three wooden ships, a limited crew, scarce amounts of food and medicine – it’s hard to think that they didn’t have a plan when setting out to discover the best route from Europe to Asia.

Centuries of construction and evolution later, we establish a structure and a plan for the development of the New World; this plan being the Constitution of the United States. One of the first tasks that George Washington accomplished was creating a building where country leaders could identify as a central hub and collaborate on future endeavors, thus Washington D.C was built. There were only 11 states when he became the president and little to no advice for how to get started, where to go. As opposed to specific domestic and foreign actions, Washington set a list of morals and codes to live by – integrity and fairness. After appointing a couple of other government officials, he began to execute on certain goals that he established and began to follow a plan. Signing a copywrite law, a federal revenue law, and proclaiming Thanksgiving to be a national holiday are a couple of signs that George Washington had an idea of where he wanted the country to go.

George Washington is considered one of the greatest leaders in history and that’s because he had a plan. Another great leader in world history is Winston Churchill, who was the prime minister of Great Britain during World War II. A fearless and charismatic leader, Winston Churchill was able to take his people and provide hope in a time of uncertainty. He was known to be audacious and willing to do the things that others hadn’t done. Resisting Germany and not falling in line with the Soviet Union were two of his most prominent plans. With prior knowledge in naval combat and an understanding of liberal politics, Churchill was able to establish goals, execute on them, and bring his country to one of the most powerful in the world.

From the beginning of time, and more recently the beginning of modern world, leaders have been establishing plans that allow them to stay organized and on a certain path. Without a plan, what type of leadership style would George Washington have passed down to preceding presidents. Without a plan, what type of country would the UK be today – if one at all?

Do the statistics prove that having a plan is worth it?

Data doesn’t lie.

According to studies, only a third of American people create plans for their life. Out of that third of people, 35% say that having a plan allows them to remain on track and accountable for their actions. Being able to monitor your progress has incredible affects on the outcomes of what you’re looking to accomplish. When you create an initial plan, it helps you develop momentum into the next steps.

It’s the same with state and local government agencies! Keep in mind, the best strategic plans are the ones that are constantly being monitored and changed. As we continue to bring in more data and have additional agencies create strategic and comprehensive plans, there will be more analysis behind the benefits of creating and sustaining these plans.

How can you be SMART when creating your plan?

Have you ever wanted to have superpowers? The ability to turn invisible would be one of the coolest things to happen to an individual and so much could be accomplished if possible. Becoming wealthy, public speaking, being free to do what you want – we’ve all dreamed of it!

However, that’s not a realistic. And “realistic” is what the “R” stands for when creating SMART goals. If you want to make sure that your plan is structured correctly and is a viable option to refer to when making government decisions, an agency has to make sure that goals are Specific. Wanting to increase resident engagement is not a specific goal. Wanting to increase resident engagement 50% by being more involved on social media is a specific goal.

On top of your goals needing to be specific, they need to be measurable. “Our goal is to have 100% of reported concerns through our new software program by the end of the year” is a measurable goal. Each quarter, it’s possible to track process and see how much further is needed to get to that 100%. There is no point in having a strategic or comprehensive plan if the goals in the agency don’t have a measurable outcome.

The most important aspect of making your goals SMART is the attainability. The idea that you can “go from a municipality with a population of 5,000 to a population of 100,000 in a year” is blasphemy. Don’t set your goals too high or you’ll be defeated when you realize that you won’t be able to get there. On the contrary, don’t set them too low or else you’ll be stagnant and feel like the process is moving to slow.

The “Realistic” part of your goals was discussed at the beginning of this section, and it’s similar to goals being attainable. The “T” in SMART means that instead of attempting to get from 5,000 residents to 100,000 residents in a year, you strive for that outcome in a decade. Growing your city by 9,500 residents every year is possible. When expanding upon that, make sure each subsequent goal is SMART – increase subscribers to the newsletter by 100 each month, bring in 5 new businesses per year, increase the transparency and attendance of our council meetings by 10%.

Be SMART when creating your strategic plans!

Who should a municipality involve when creating goals?


Not really, because that would make for a long and complicated process that’s filled with too many decision-makers. However, when creating the goals in your strategic plan, it’s important to include as many leadership personas as possible.

The Office of the New York State Comptroller published an article that highlights who should be in the creation of a municipality’s comprehensive or strategic plan:

The City Administrator/Manager – This person should take the initiative in creating and updating the plan.

The Finance Officer – This person should have a say in the budget and fiscal matters of the plan.

Council Members – As leaders in the community, these people should have an important opinion on next steps.

Department Heads – Communications, Public Works, Economic Development, Parks and Rec, Building & Zoning, Police, Fire.

Certain Vendors/Sponsors/Stakeholders – Anybody else who the organization feels would be an important part in creating the plan – i.e. Consultants, Software/Hardware vendors, etc.

To sum it all up:

Government agencies and individuals have been creating plans and goals from the very beginning. Creating goals helps promote structure and a path to follow. From leaders in the Roman Empire all the way to modern leaders like George Washington, it has been an integral part of growth and sustainability. Statistics have proven that creating your strategic and comprehensive plan will make the organization stronger.

Make sure that your goals are SMART. Building transparency is important, but if there’s no end in sight, it can still cause anxiety and uncertainty. To decrease the anxiety and uncertainty, make sure to include as many people as possible in the creation of the plan.

If looking for ways that other municipalities are growing, join the discussion in our community and build together!

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