2020 Hindsight – Regional Manager, Victoria and Tasmania, Malcolm McKenzie

One of the fundamental principles of Project Management is Project Review. This is the stage in the project cycle where we undertake a review of the completed project to ascertain whether the project achieved its objectives in terms of quality, cost and functional requirements. From the review, lessons learnt can be captured and applied to future projects to ensure continuous improvement in the way we do things. It is a discipline that is not always exercised (after all we have just finished one project, time to get on to the next one) but when it is, it provides valuable insight for an organisation.

The practice of project review is one that can easily be applied to tangible projects but what would this thinking look like if we applied it to the Strategic Planning we undertake as councils and organisations that serve our communities.   We are now approaching 2020 which will be 20 years since the year 2000. For those of us old enough to remember, long term strategic plans were popular at this time with catchy names like “Vision 2020” or “2020 – A Vision for our City”. Everyone was starting to jump onboard in developing a long-term vision for their community with aspirational plans for what their community would look like into the future.

Whilst these plans were admirable in their intent and future iterations of these plans have evolved to be more reflective of what the current aspirations are for these communities, I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to look back at what was written almost 20 years ago and reflect on the vision that was forecast compared to the reality of today.

Would we find that our aspirations were simply that “aspirations” or would the vision have been achieved and progress being made towards the next set of goals? I feel that for those organisations where the latter has been achieved that there would have not only have been a visionary culture but also one of planning and commitment to making those aspirations a reality.

This need for committed planning extends beyond strategic planning into the entire planning framework. Whether it be operational plans, capital programs or the long term financial plan, there needs to be a commitment to resourcing the promises made in these plans. Many of the speakers at the recent IPWEA Asset Management congress in Canberra highlighted this very issue where under delivery of infrastructure programs is impacting on our economy and the quality of life within the country.

Our own Chairman who spoke at the congress highlighted that recent audits have shown that a significant number of councils in NSW are not renewing infrastructure at the rate in which they are depreciating. Our analysis paints a similar picture for Victoria with $562m in programmed capital works not being delivered in 2016/17.

“The lessons learnt from this is that yes, we should be undertaking long term strategic planning, but these plans must be more than aspirational with funding commitments accompanying these plans. This can be challenging in a rate capped environment but understanding the services we deliver, what they cost and what we can afford to commit to into the future is the starting point.”

CT Management Group can support Councils in in strategic planning and has a range of tools to support long term planning including Service Planning, Capital Works Evaluation and our Long Term Financial Plan tool. We would be pleased to discuss your needs in this area. Please contact Malcolm McKenzie on 1300 500 932.