Utility board favors strategy
by RICK NORTON Associate Editor
Mar 17, 2014 | 979 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
John Corum
John Corum

Acting on a futuristic initiative that staff and workforce embrace, the Cleveland Board of Public Utilities has endorsed a “Mission, Vision and Core Principles” ideology expected to lead the local service provider into a strategic development plan for the next three years, and beyond.

Authorization for CU to move ahead with the strategy came during a recent formal session of the utility board. On a motion by Joe Cate and second by Chari Buckner, the board threw its support — by a unanimous 5-0 vote — behind the endeavor that President and CEO Ken Webb and board chairman Aubrey Ector believe will engage employees and better prepare the utility for the future, both short and long term.

Other board members favoring the strategy were Eddie Cartwright, board vice chairman, and Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland who represents the Cleveland City Council on the utility board.

At a gathering in mid-February, the CU staff introduced the proposal to the full board and identified its key players. One is John Corum, CU safety supervisor who joined the utility in late 2013 following the promotion of Tim Henderson into the role of vice president of Administrative Services. Henderson previously had led CU’s safety program.

In previous company roles prior to joining Cleveland Utilities, Corum had served in integral positions for the design of other strategic development plans.

In the February session, Corum updated the board on the internal effort so far. At that point, it had included brainstorming sessions involving several key department heads and was closing in on the start of a string of employee focus groups intended to get workers’ ideas and suggestions that could become part of the strategic development plan.

The whole idea behind the initiative dates back to the late-2013 retirement of former President and CEO Tom Wheeler. As part of Webb’s transition into the leadership role, he and Ector agreed to address the development of a short- and long-term strategy.

Webb detailed the process during the board’s February gathering.

“One suggestion he [Ector] made to me was that we develop some key performance indicators that we could actually monitor ... for meeting goals and objectives,” Webb said then. “In looking at this, [we learned] that many times these key performance indicators come out of a strategic plan.”

And the development of a strategic plan is often linked to the formation of a “Mission, Vision and Core Principles” statement that identifies a company’s ideals and its hoped impact on the future.

The development of key descriptors like “Mission,” “Vision” and “Core Principles” are not unique to American companies — especially those whose roles are tied closely to community need and fiscal success. Companies that want to remain viable while sustaining futures for themselves and business partners — in this case, the Cleveland community, local government jurisdictions and CU customers — material goals and objectives must be established.

Mid- to large-sized companies, and even global corporations, have established such business models for years. Even smaller businesses are getting more and more into the mix, especially those operating in a limited, or competitive, marketing niche.

To date, the CU initiative has identified a “Mission,” a “Vision” and a set of “Core Principles.”

The Mission Statement reads, “The mission of Cleveland Utilities is to provide our customers with excellent and reliable water, wastewater, electric and supporting services through innovative business practices, a process of continual improvement and a demonstrated commitment to our community and Core Principles.”

The Vision Statement offers, “Cleveland Utilities aspires to be an organization of the highest quality, working collaboratively and responsibly to meet the evolving utility needs of our community into the foreseeable future.”

Ten Core Principals have been identified to date: Community, Continual Improvement, Ethical Standards, Excellence, Inclusiveness, Innovation, Reliability, Responsibility, Safety and Stewardship. Each is defined in the “Mission, Vision and Core Principles” statement.

In his previous report, Corum explained once the employee focus groups were completed, the information would be organized into usable data. Follow-up sessions with the same worker groups would follow in the continued design of the strategic development plan.

At present, the idea is for Cleveland Utilities to develop a working strategic plan for three years into the future, and then to continue to update it based on community needs, economic projections and future growth.

A timetable for completion of the plan has not been presented to the board; however, it is expected that progress updates will be provided as information is available or as requested by the governing body.