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Cluj-Napoca – Best Practice in Strategy Building

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Strategy

Strategic planning – is it just a fancy way for top executives to spend time and energy working on formal documents that have no real impact in the organization, or is it a remedy that can solve many issues within the organization?

In “The Art of War”, Sun Tzu defined strategy as: “the great work of the organization. In situations of life and death, it is the Tao of survival or extinction. Its study cannot be neglected.” Therefore, we can think about strategy as a proactive approach of estimating future events and trying to benefit from them.

Managers have the possibility to develop future growth models and to promote the development of a strong competitive advantage, and not just draft a rigid operational list or conduct a SWOT analysis. Moreover, strategy is never the product of top executives working with consultants, it is “the great work of the organization”, allowing stakeholders to influence the final strategy of the organization.

One of the most important aspects of a strategic plan is that it gives a broader understanding of the internal and external environment, focusing on strategic priorities, rather than on what is important in the short run. Although it can be time consuming and perceived as a rather complex and complicated process, strategy building is very beneficial for an organization’s growth.

Even though strategic planning is widely used in organizations, more and more governmental entities or countries are following this model as good practice for community development. A best practice example of developing a strategic plan from 2014 to 2020 at the community level is Cluj-Napoca, second biggest Romanian city registering a fast growth.

The strategic planning process for the city of Cluj-Napoca was developed in almost two years, as it started in February 2013 and ended in December 2014.

It focused on involving both the community and specialists from different fields in shaping the key strategic factors, the strategic profile of the city, its competitive advantage and of course, the operational programs which would help implement the strategy. The program also has a practical component of political and administrative ownership on implementing the strategy, and a thorough monitoring and evaluation system was recommended.

strategy

“Cluj will be a model of good governance, with a transparent, progressive and performant public administration, where the citizen will become the partner of the administration. Cluj will become a pole of academic excellence, where the academia engaged in the life of the community will be the source of creativity, innovation and research.

Cluj will become a European mark through its dynamic, vibrant cultural life which supports experimentation and initiative taking. Culture will represent a transversal factor in organizing the community, becoming the engine of social transformation and urban regeneration.” – Călin Hințea, the Dean of the Faculty of Political Sciences, Administration and Communication, Cluj Napoca, Romania

The three key strategic factors were: innovation, university and participation. Based on these three factors, 8 strategic dimensions were established, each divided in smaller working groups with more specific themes:

  • People and community – to which 8 working groups were assigned;
  • Innovative, creative and competitive city – with 5 working groups;
  • Urban development and spatial planning – with only one working group;
  • Green city – one working group;
  • Good governance – divided in 2 working groups;
  • Culture and local identity – divided in 5 working groups;
  • Healthy city – which had 3 working groups assigned;
  • Safe city – with one working group.

Because this strategy was focused on community involvement and on having a real impact, a research study assessing the quality of life was conducted as part of the preliminary structural analysis. Qualitative and quantitative data were analyzed, as well as the national and international strategies or the key competitors.

Besides the preliminary structural analysis, the working groups employed other instruments for the development of the strategy, such as: PEST or SWOT analysis, identification of key strategic problems, analysis of the potential competitive advantage, and strategies and operational programs drafting in each of the previously mentioned sectors.

strategy

Following the employment of these instruments, one of the most notable overall recommendations for the implementation of the 200 operational programs is the creation of three different groups. Groups responsible with implementation, monitoring and evaluation in three different strategic areas:

  • Participation – responsible with Associativity, Social Inclusion, Multiculturalism, Youth, Public Health, Sport and Community and Film;
  • Creativity – accountable for Local Economic Development, IT, Culture and Creative Industries, Tourism, Territorial Marketing, Environment, Safety;
  • University – in control of Higher/ Pre-University Education, Historical Identity.

We can see that a special attention was paid to metrics and performance indicators, which helped all groups in the preliminary analysis to measure the actual performance and to describe the current state of each sector. Moreover, employing a measurement system based on indicators helped each working group to discover the strategic problems or areas that can be used as strategic advantage.

The strategy also clearly states that the monitoring and evaluation stage of the operational programs and the strategy for each sector, require performance measurement systems.

To put things into perspective, if we follow the methodology used by the strategic planning team from Cluj-Napoca, we can easily see how they followed the theoretical frame and created more than just a hard-lined document. At the community level the process of designing a strategy is indeed much more complex, involving many stakeholders and several sectors. Nevertheless, the way in which Cluj-Napoca’s strategy was build could be adapted not only in other governmental settings, but also within an organization.

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