Utility future strategy nearing
by By RICK NORTON Associate Editor
Jul 21, 2014 | 1216 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
An employee-driven Strategic Plan outlining three key initiatives to be used to gauge Cleveland Utilities’ effectiveness in the community is less than two months away from a public unveiling.

It is expected to take place during the August gathering of the Cleveland Board of Public Utilities.

At least, that’s the tentative timeline identified by John Corum, CU safety supervisor who is leading the in-house development of a “Mission, Vision and Core Principles” ideology that is the precursor to action plans that will light CU’s path into the next three years, and beyond.

Corum joined CU in late 2013 to succeed Tim Henderson who was promoted from the safety role to the vice presidency of Administrative Services. Because of his experience in the design of strategic planning for previous employers, Corum was asked to lead the CU Strategic Plan project.

The safety supervisor last updated board members on the process in February by identifying the “Mission, Vision and Core Principles” that had been established via employee focus groups. More than 60 employees participated in those sessions.

Since that time, additional groups totaling 41 employees have been gathered to help develop action plans that will support three key Strategic Plan initiatives.

During a recent session of the CU board, Corum identified those initiatives as being:

1. To enhance external and internal communications.

2. To strengthen CU policies and procedures.

3. To develop internal performance measures in five areas: safety, reliability, compliance, rates and financial stability.

“Earlier [in June], we began to look at some of the goals that will help us to achieve these initiatives,” Corum told board members. These will lead to action plans, as identified by a diverse cross-section of employees — construction workers, linemen, engineers, clerks, office workers and administrative personnel, Corum pointed out.

Corum said he and Ken Webb, CU president and CEO, were scheduled to meet to look over the action plans soon as proposed by the employee groups.

“We’re making some significant progress toward this and we hope to wrap it up soon,” he stressed.

CU board members in March endorsed the establishment of the “Mission, Vision and Core Principles,” with the understanding that further details of the Strategic Plan would be forthcoming; namely, the initiatives that Corum identified in the board’s June 30 session, as well as the initiatives’ accompanying list of action plans.

The whole idea of a Strategic Plan came in 2013 with the retirement of longtime CU leader Tom Wheeler who had served as general manager, and later as president and CEO, during the last 24 years of his 43-year career. As part of Webb’s transition into the leadership role, CU board chairman Aubrey Ector asked the new president to address the development of a short- and long-term business strategy.

Webb introduced the concept to board members in their February session and yielded to Corum’s presentation who explained in detail how the process will be coordinated.

A month later board members signed off on the work to date, including the acceptance of CU’s new “Mission,” “Vision” and “Core Principles.”

As proposed by employee groups and authorized by the board, the CU 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 stresses, “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.”

CU’s 10 Core Principles, as identified to date, include: Community, Continual Improvement, Ethical Standards, Excellence, Inclusiveness, Innovation, Reliability, Responsibility, Safety and Stewardship.” Each principle is defined in detail.

Although the ongoing in-house effort is new to Cleveland Utilities, it is not new to American business. More and more U.S. companies are developing their own business strategies — including Mission and Vision statements, and core principles — that are used to guide their operations into the short- and long-term futures.

In some major corporations, these types of business models have been incorporated into internal strategies for years, especially those operating in a limited, or competitive, marketplace.

Although CU’s Strategic Plan is still a work in progress, the eventual idea is to plot a three-year strategy that can be updated periodically, as determined by community needs, economic projections and future growth.

Such plans traditionally engage workforces closely because it is felt employees have some of the best ideas on how their workplaces can meet community and customer need.