Eagan, Minnesota: Growth with Grace
Eagan, Minnesota: Growth with Grace
The City of Eagan, MN, is a second-ring suburb of Minneapolis-St. Paul recognized for forward-thinking administration, high quality of life for its citizens, and efficient delivery of municipal services. The City has experienced dramatic growth in the past 30 years with residential build-out of approximately 95%. However, growth has slowed significantly in the last decade causing city management to assess what this change means for municipal services and city resource requirements.
To accommodate residential and commercial growth over the past 40 years, the City designed and administered the delivery of core services to meet the needs of its constituents. Activities relative to public safety, public works, public utilities, community development, and parks and recreation historically had been aligned to serve this significant level of community growth and development. Through the past several years, Eagan services have expanded to incorporate several recreation facilities including a civic arena, an aquatic facility and a new community center.
Eagan has a Council – Administrator form of government, and is in the fortunate position of having several highly tenured individuals in key management positions. Several members of the management team have over 20 years of service with the City, including Eagan’s highly regarded current City Administrator, Tom Hedges, who has 27 years in this role.
Following the retirement of the City’s long-term and widely-respected Director of Parks and Recreation in early 2004, the City’s management team and Council prepared not only to fill the “big shoes” of this position, but to address the anticipated retirement of many senior level managers. The City needed to evaluate how to transition from previous staffing strategies that were put in place to meet the needs of the community during a period of rapid growth and development, to the needs of a more mature community. In considering these changes, the City remained committed to providing high quality services in a manner that is responsive to community needs, yet cost- conscious.
To address these challenges, the City of Eagan sought the assistance of the state and local government management consultants of Virchow, Krause & Company, LLP. Virchow Krause and the City of Eagan worked collaboratively for four months in late 2004 and early 2005, developing a roadmap to ensure the City’s success. The key features of this process included:
Developing a Succession Plan
As noted earlier, Eagan anticipated the retirement of many of its senior managers. Eagan shares the challenge of succession planning with others nationwide; to illustrate, 80 million baby boomers are expected to retire in the United States, while only 50 million Gen Xers will be available to replace them. This succession challenge is even more pronounced in the public sector, since there is a greater percentage of baby boomers in the public sector than in the private sector. 1 To ensure a smooth transition of operations, Virchow Krause and the City of Eagan began to take stock of where the institutional knowledge, memory and expertise existed in the current organization. At this stage in the process, it was obvious that succession planning would be much more than an exercise in filling position vacancies. A tremendous wealth of knowledge and customer management savvy rested with a lean, highly-skilled, experienced leadership team, suggesting that members could probably not be replaced by new managers on a one-to-one basis without sacrificing continuity and quality in City administration and operations. Some of the elements identified which were critical for Eagan’s succession planning process included:
* Establishing reasonable expectations for the timing of recruitments to fill anticipated retirements in key positions
* Developing tools and opportunities for knowledge transfer
* Identifying the up-and-comers in the organization who were most suited to be groomed for future leadership positions
* Providing the skill and leadership training-including internal mentoring– needed to ensure the success of future leaders
* Strategizing for organizational change beyond personnel transitions, i.e., changes to organizational structure
Linking Resources to Service Delivery Priorities
As noted earlier, Eagan evolved from decades of rapid community growth to being almost 95%-developed and mature. The transition from a developing state to a developed state can have significant implications for the type of services desired, the manner in which services are provided, staffing levels assigned to specific functions and the organizational structure overall. A primary focus of this study involved ensuring that Eagan’s resources were linked to its service delivery priorities.
For example, the scope of City park and recreation services had expanded dramatically as the City grew over the years. The City remains committed to providing high quality recreation opportunities designed to meet contemporary needs and interests of residents. The City’s Parks and Recreation Department manages 54 parks and three enterprise fund facilities (recreation facilities that are required by City policy to be financially self-sufficient), and coordinates an extensive variety of recreation opportunities for constituents of all ages. Given the expanded scope of park and recreation services in the City-including additional accountability for revenue generation by enterprise fund facilities-the Virchow Krause project team worked with project stakeholders to develop alternatives for improving the link between organizational structure and service delivery. One of the most notable alternatives evaluated was departmental restructuring to create an enterprise superintendent responsible for overseeing enterprise fund recreation facilities and related functions, including customer service for all recreation programs and activities. That reorganization would provide the City with the appropriate structure and personnel to fulfill critical functions aligned specifically with priority business objectives of enterprise fund activities.
Another primary focus of the study was to identify functions common to multiple City departments and to assess whether centralizing or decentralizing those functions provided greater efficiency and effectiveness. In reviewing the functions of each City department, two opportunities for increasing efficiency through consolidation emerged. The first was providing geographic information system (GIS) services as a city-wide function instead of within multiple departments. Coordinating this function can help eliminate inconsistent entry of base data between different departments, as well as GIS knowledge fragmentation along department lines.
The second opportunity to increase efficiency and effectiveness through centralization was in marketing. Most of Eagan’s departments prepared brochures, flyers, newsletters or other media to provide updates to the community. The Parks and Recreation Department alone estimated that a minimum of 25 hours per week were filled with marketing activities for recreation programs. Given the volume of marketing activities performed across multiple departments and the lack of a comprehensive Citywide standard for preparing public communications, restructuring to provide marketing functions on a City-wide basis would improve consistency in message for the City and eliminate duplication of effort relative to marketing materials preparation and sourcing.
Continual Performance Assessments
Another overarching theme of this organizational study was the importance of having timely feedback regarding City services. This relates to both internal and external performance assessment. Conducting customer satisfaction surveys or point-of-service surveys is necessary to determine customer priorities. Continual review of survey results is vital to making appropriate “shifts” necessary to ensure the right mix of services. Designing a framework for continuous feedback and clearly articulated performance expectations regarding employees’ contributions to these priority activities is also critical to ensure responsive and appropriate service delivery.
With the assistance of VK, the City of Eagan was able to “take a step back” and look objectively at the alignment of resources form a customer perspective. This assessment provided a roadmap to define necessary activities to:
* Accomplish vital organizational restructuring
* Align staff resources with customer priorities
* Conduct critical succession planning
* Develop continual customer feedback monitoring systems
* Realign fragmented functions centrally
The City has implemented a variety of organizational changes based on this study, particularly in the Parks and Recreation Department. These changes are reflected in the 2006 budget, which will be presented to the City Council in the summer of 2005.