Have you read the book “Go Put Your Strengths to Work: 6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance” (2007) by Marcus Buckingham? It a book that focuses on helping managers lead their organizations to new levels of success. I decided to translate Buckingham’s 6 steps into guidance on how to run a successful economic development organization. Based on my own experience, I think his concepts provide some unique insight..
6 Steps To Turning Your EDO Into A High Performing Organization
STEP #1 – BUST THE MYTHS. Every community is constrained by what it believes. Growth and expansion are both desired and feared. There is typically an underlying concern among that with increased economic activity the community will change in ways that may not be desirable. Instead, it is important to set a clear vision for what you want the community identity to be and take steps to ensure the vision does not change through the transformation. In this way, as the economy grows through capital attraction and existing company expansion, the community becomes an even better version of what it already is. Key to success is a clear vision of the desired community identity and an understanding of the gaps to close in order to create it.
STEP #2 – GET CLEAR. It is important to have an objective understanding of your community through the eyes of a potential capital investor. You need to understand your assets, strengths, and weaknesses. A great tool to help you with this exercise is a SWOT analysis. When is your community at its best? Why do your current business leaders like doing business from your community? These executives know your community better that anybody else and can be a great source of insight.
STEP #3 – FREE YOUR STRENGTHS. Make your strengths even stronger. These are your long-term points of competitive difference. Focus on one or two of the most relevant strengths and identify ways you can invest to make them even more competitive. Educate your economic development partners on what the strength is and why it is important to business leaders. Then, build a compelling sales presentation that showcases the strength in a compelling way.
STEP #4 – STOP YOUR WEAKNESS. Similarly with any major competitive weaknesses, identify how to neutralize them. Typically this will involve public policy reform, investment in infrastructure improvement, or the creation of a new asset. It is important to identify and enroll the constituents in your community who will benefit through the neutralization of the weakness. Teaming up with them is key to success.
STEP #5 – SPEAK UP. Tell your story. Be transparent in sharing what you are trying to accomplish and why. This will help ensure the right people and organizations are supporting the creation of your desired community identity. This step requires resources and a passion for keeping people involved in the process. It also takes time.
STEP #6 – BUILD STRONG HABITS. You need to work on the process as well as in the process. As you build a stronger community identity, it is important to create new supporting processes and eliminate legacy procedures that add no value or get in the way of progress. The old way of doing things is perfectly designed to deliver the results you get today. You need to embrace the new way of doing things that emerges from the transformation exercise. Be on guard if no process changes are identified as part of your solution. It suggests the results may not be sustainable.
At the end of his book, Buckingham says “Let tomorrow be a stronger day than today… You’ve always known what your strengths are. You’ve always known what lies within you. So, trust them, be proud of them and take your stand.”
When I was Executive Director for the Ohio Business Development Coalition, I spent roughly a third of my time working on designing and deploying sustainable processes to ensure the work of the Organization was effective. I also spent a lot of time talking with stakeholders across the state to inform them of the Organization’s priorities. I told them what we were doing, and importantly what we were not doing. I found that providing clear expectations went a long way to reducing problems and helped in securing support. What is your experience? How has your EDO become a high performance organization?
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