What factors help determine the success of strategic plan implementation? Dr. David Mitchell, assistant professor at the School of Public Administration at the University of Central Florida is conducting research to find out. He recently spoke at the Florida League of Cities 2014 Legislative Conference and provided an update on his progress.

Dr. Mitchell measures implementation success by looking at three factors. First, what projects did the city complete? Second, did it exceed the proposed timeframe for the project? Finally, did the project exceed its budget? The current study included 218 different projects from 44 different strategic plans. Of those initiatives 67% of projects were completed within three years.  The average cost was 110% of the original budget, and the average time was 130% of the original schedule.

The study came to four conclusions. The first was that, “one size does not fit all.” Essentially, various projects call for different implementation strategies.

The second conclusion was “implementation funding matters.” This variable was critical to the success of all projects. The study found however, that “dedicated implementation funding is provided only 33% of the time.”

The third states, “The City Manager (or CAO) can make or break implementation.” Specifically, there are some projects in which city manager involvement is detrimental to project success and there are other projects in which city manager involvement is crucial to success. In general, projects that are low in complexity fared well without City manager involvement and those that were high in complexity fared well with some city manager involvement.

The final conclusion was that while, “one size does not fit all… Municipalities are using one-size-fits-all implementation strategies.”

Management Partners assists many local governments with strategic planning. We usually include an Implementation Action Plan to help ensure progress moves forward in a meaningful way. As practitioners, we encourage that each project have only one leader. It is important to consolidate leadership so there is no confusion moving forward about who is responsible for implementation.