Self Assessment & Strategic Planning

Part of the Process of Strategic Planning

Self assessment can be thought of as the needs assessment step in the strategic planning process. Strategic planning is used by both the public and private sectors to help set the course for improving the effectiveness of their business. Public works agencies are simply businesses that exist in the public sector to provide services to the community.

Use of the self assessment in a strategic planning process will ensure that agencies address the key issues necessary for effective operation and management of public works. The recommended practices contained in the Manual represent consensus of leaders in the field of public works.

An agency that complies with the recommended practices and sets goals for improvement based on the recommended practices can be reasonably assured of success in providing effective service to their community.


Strategic Plcanning for Public Works Agencies

APWA has chosen the term "Strategic Planning for Public Works Agencies" to describe a process that includes the development of an agencies mission and vision statements; conducting a needs assessment using the self assessment process; establishing goals for improvement: developing an implementation plan; and successful attainment of the agencies goals. An agency that completes the entire strategic planning process will be eligible to apply to APWA for agency accreditation.

Agency accreditation is not the end of the process. It is intended that the accredited agencies will use the strategic planning process to provide a framework for continuous improvement of their policies, procedures and practices. Agencies will undergo reaccreditation at three year intervals to ensure that the agencies are maintaining the standards of excellence that allowed them to become accredited.


Before Beginning

No form of training or improvement program can succeed in an organization that is uncertain about its mission, is in turmoil, or is dysfunctional. It is essential the agency carefully assess its overall leadership and management abilities prior to beginning the self assessment.

It is essential that the organization have some sense about why they exist and where they are going before proceeding. The agency should prepare mission, vision and value statements before beginning the self assessment process. It is not surprising that Practice 1.1 of the Manual discusses the need for these statements.

The agency may discover that they need to revise their mission or vision during the process of conducting the self assessment. As such, the director and project manager should remain open to such mid-course corrections.


Four Essential Ingredients

Before embarking on a self assessment program, it is important to recognize four key elements crucial to the program's success:
  • Committed leadership all the way to the top,
  • A high degree of employee involvement,
  • An organized system of documentation, and
  • Commitment to improvement.
The absence of any one of these factors will greatly diminish, if not negate, the program's effectiveness. The success of the process is also highly dependent on the ability of the organization to devote significant staff resources to evaluation of the agency's current practices.

The Director's Role

Effective, committed leadership at the top is one of the key ingredients for success of the self assessment program. This applies not only to the director and the program manager, but to the agency's top appointed and/or elected officials. Following are recommendations to assist the director in defining their role in the self assessment process. [MORE]

Become Familiar with the Management Practices Manual

The participants in the process are encouraged to read the Public Works Management Practices Manual cover to cover. This is the best way to become acquainted with the project as a whole, and will make the process of prioritizing and scheduling much easier. The logical progression of the self assessment is to address the first nine chapters of the manual, which deal with administrative issues common to almost all agencies. [MORE]

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