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Five Principles for Successful High-Performing Local Government

Building High-Performance Local Governments

Good organizations perform. Great organizations, however, perform at a higher level, where people are seen as wanting --- even needing --- to do a good job, they are motivated through challenging work that they are eventually recognized for, their projects tend to be team based, and the output of them are often excellent. Campbell County, located in central Virginia, began the creation of a high-performing organization in 1999, which set the stage for its vibrant, successful, change-oriented parallel organization 11 years later. The county, led by County Administrator R. David Laurrell at the time, eventually shaped its leadership at all levels, creating an effective parallel structure that addressed improvement and long-term planning, and ensured that the organization fostered adaptation, learning and high performance.

Early in the change effort, Laurrell articulated five principles for successful high-performing local government to guide his own efforts, those of the county's Senior Leadership Team, and all employees. Having a great understanding of the principles and applying these beliefs and strategies over the course of 11 years, Campbell County earned the Virginia Association of Counties' Best Achievement Award in 2010 for its sustained efforts in high performance. Clearly having these five principles in place can drive success over the long run. So, take a note from Campbell County, and think about adding these five principles for successful high-performing local government. 

1. Embrace Change.

Localities working toward high performance will have to undergo fundamental cultural changes to move from technical thinking to adaptive thinking.

2. Achieve Alignment.

In order for high performance to exist, there must be a shared vision between the democratic process, the political environment, and the organizational climate.

3. Develop Your People Assets.

Focus on energizing the organization through developing personal, technical, management, and leadership skills in all members.

4. Adapt Your Organizational Structures.

Enable your jurisdiction to accomplish great things by restructuring to allow people to be more creative and entrepreneurial.

5. Support Experimentation and Renewal.

Understand and commit to the concept of creating a learning environment that enables change and adaptability. Foster out-of-the-box thinking, instill trust, and recognize the importance of failure in building a self-renewing, continuously improving organization.

Interested in high performance organizations? Register for this free ICMA Coaching Program webinar on March 10: Thriving as a High Performance Organization and learn strategies to stimulate interest and actions to boost performance.

Information on this post has been adapted from: Building High-Performance Local Governments: Case Studies in Leadership at all Levels. 

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