Having previously seen how to achieve smart growth and do more with less, this final instalment of this series focuses on how city leadership can win support for change.
Harare Mayor Bernard Gabriel Manyenyeni has certainly crafted a vision to drive city growth. Yet however far-sighted the vision, its real value lies in the changes Harareans expect to see in their lives. By now the good mayor has probably realised that no change effort is easy and momentum can attract opposition. He has also probably realised that successful leaders need large reserves of resilience in order to see their vision through and that they should never give up. The mayor knows that in order to win long-term support for change, he needs to deliver results swiftly. How to do so is the question.
1. Craft a personal vision
Struggling cities often lack a vision that the city hall and citizens understand and support. Outstanding cities, in contrast, are associated with a vision that powers progress. Such a vision expresses the city’s history as well as its aspirations. The mayor’s job is to convey this vision to residents and to guide council toward realising it. This influences everything from long-term capital plans to the look of the city’s streets. The mayor’s vision of Harare must be as a business, its residents should be seen as customers who deserve high quality services. The personal commitment of the mayor to the vision gives it credence.
2. Build a high-performing team
However strong his passion, Councillor Manyenyeni cannot bring about change on his own. He must have a team of good people around to help him transform Harare. This way, he can move from being a visionary constrained by election cycles to a manager who can drive lasting change throughout the city. This entails recruiting and retaining the best talent, getting the most out of it through collaboration and investing in learning.
Recruit and retain top talent: The city must strive to employ people who bring skills and perspectives from the public, private and social sectors. Such diversity can help it to understand, communicate and work with a broad range of stakeholders. The city needs people with deep local knowledge of its problems and neighbourhoods.
Get the most from the team through collaboration: To get the most from teams, cross-departmental collaboration is needed to facilitate idea generation and project coordination. Much good work done by some city departments is often negated by other departments which do not play their part.
Invest in learning: As technology and data analysis become central to setting local policy and delivering city services, many council workers require additional training in the use of technology.
3. Create a culture of accountability
Harare’s vision is unlikely to be realised without a culture of accountability to hold individuals responsible for progress towards it. As a result, the city needs plans that map the way forward, with appropriate metrics to gauge progress. Performance management systems help achieve such goals and can bring about a culture of accountability at all levels.
4. Forge stakeholder consensus
Building consensus with the local population and the business community through transparency and a two-way communication process will be key to defining Manyenyeni’s vision. The story of change is about him engaging the people and convincing them that he wants to improve their lives. Collaborative partnerships between businesses, non-profit bodies, and local government can be effective at setting a winning agenda and broadening support for the city’s policies.
Public backing improves the likelihood of reaching longer-term goals and because mayors have limited tenures, longer-term plans must be well-articulated, which can help them to gain popular support. Such popular support means that subsequent city leaders may find the plans harder to ignore.
Whatever the starting point of city leaders or their ambition, delivering results is the only fuel for change. City leaders who attain mastery of the management practices described in this and the previous two instalments of this column will be equipped to achieve smart growth, do more with less, and win support for change – the three hallmarks of any city’s journey on the road to greatness.