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The City of Vaughan’s service excellence journey

Presented by Christina Coniglio
in Planning

Strategy execution through OKRs

Sponsored by City of Vaughan

What is the Objective and Key Results (OKRs) management methodology? And does it apply to government agencies? The OKRs methodology is a structured and simple approach to goal setting and monitoring of results. Developed by Andy Grove in the 1970s, the methodology has been successfully utilized in the private sector and is now gaining interest from all levels of government.

Since implementing OKRs in 2020, the City of Vaughan achieved many successes through its organizational goal alignment. With a consistent method in place, the city saw great improvement in goal setting for individual staff, as well as for its business planning and annual budget process.

The city identified six key benefits:

  • Focus;
  • Alignment;
  • Staff Engagement;
  • Commitment;
  • Tracking; and
  • Accountability.

OKRs Launch and Approach

The first step in launching the OKRs methodology was customizing it to fit the city’s culture.

To strengthen the relationship between business planning and budgeting, the city turned the “K” of OKRs into Key activities, to focus on the how. This format is consistent with the structure of the 2018-2022 Term of Council Service Excellence Strategic Plan. The plan is made up of projects, initiatives, and programs identified as priorities by council. Each priority is set with objectives, key activities, and results that make up the city’s corporate performance measures.

Next, the city focused on lessons learned and strengthening the strategic planning team’s skill set. The OKRs methodology was first piloted in a few departments in 2020, and then rolled out to the entire organization in 2021.
The support and willingness of the city’s senior leaders to embrace the method has been paramount to its successful implementation. They have made it a top priority for their teams, and this model of behaviour enables a culture of success.

Vaughan Recognized for First-of-Its-Kind Approach to Strategic Planning

The City of Vaughan recently received the 2021 Richard Goodman Strategic Planning Award from the Association of Strategic Planning in the Local Governmental Organization category. The city’s OKRs journey has just begun, and there is much more to do. The focus moving forward is to drive OKRs deeper into the organization by:

  • working with managers to incorporate OKRs into one-on-one meetings; and
  • working directly with frontline workers to ensure they see how OKRs and their daily work contribute to the city’s strategic plan.

Aligning strategy and execution has become a game changer in Vaughan. The OKRs methodology has become the action plan in delivering the City of Vaughan’s award-winning 2018-2022 Term of Council Service Excellence Strategic Plan. The OKRs methodology needs to be championed, and senior leadership support has been instrumental to the success of the organization.

Municipalities around the world should consider the OKRs methodology as a strategic management tool for their organization.  MW

Municipal World Insider and Executive Members: You might also be interested in Mark Mullaly’s article: Creating strategic clarity (Part 1): What is a municipality for? Note that you can now access the complete collection of past articles (and more) from your membership dashboard.

Christina Coniglio is a Charted Professional Accountant who developed and manages the OKRs program at the City of Vaughan.

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