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Strategic planning: the Georgia GFOA looks to the year 2000.

By its very nature, planning is an orderly process which stimulates and encourages thinking about present and future factors in the environment affecting the organization. It is useful because it channels an organization's resources and efforts toward some predetermined method for achieving specific goals. Strategic or long-term planning, often used in business and government settings, can benefit professional organizations as well. The Georgia Government Finance Officers Association (GGFOA) recently availed itself of such planning techniques to create a strategic plan for the 1990s.

The GGFOA was created in 1985 and draws its members from state, county and city governments; school districts; colleges and universities; authorities and special districts; and private firms. Its mission and objectives were:

* to promote the use of efficient financial management systems by governmental organizations within the state;

* to improve the knowledge and skills of all individuals concerned with governmental finance;

* to promote development of mutually understandable accounting, auditing, budgeting and record keeping systems in cooperation with the Government Finance Officers Association, the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) and all other organizations established with similar goals;

* to provide a forum for the discussion and analysis of financial problems arising under the laws of Georgia;

* to promote the enhancement of employment standards, ethics and conditions for public finance practitioners within the state of Georgia, thus encouraging the development of career paths such that talent trained in this state will choose to remain in the state; and

* to promote the achievement of greater success in efficiency and service of government and the evolution of closer relationships and understanding among those concerned with governmental finance in the public jurisdictions of Georgia.

Seven years later, while the mission and objectives of the association remain viable, change has affected the roles and functions of state and local government finance officials. The role of state and local governments has expanded noticeably as the federal government transferred service delivery responsibility to them and decreased federal aid. Changes continue, as well, in accounting and financial reporting, with decisions by the GASB having implications for the continuing evolution of generally accepted accounting principles.

To remain vital and useful to its membership, a professional organization must periodically review its mission and objectives. Its leaders must look to the future, anticipate changes and set goals that will move the organization in desired directions. Recognizing this need, in August 1990 GGFOA's leadership proposed the creation of a GGFOA 2000 Task Force. Its goal: "to determine where GGFOA wants to be in the year 2000 and to determine how we get there." The task force held its first meeting in Perry, Georgia, on November 15, 1990.

The process involved six meetings of the full task force and several subcommittee meetings between February 15 and June 12. The process began with a realistic forecast and assessment of the likely operating environment in which the organization would find itself during the decade of the 1990s. One full day was devoted to the consideration of social, demographic, economic, governmental and professional changes and an effort to relate these changes to the governmental finance function. Individuals with expertise and experience in each major area of change met with the task force. A rural sociologist with the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Georgia outlined relevant social and demographic changes. An econmist with a large regional bank reviewed Georgia's economy. Officials of county and municipal associations led a discussion of the challenges confronting these governments in Georgia. Other university officials discussed accounting and financial reporting issues likely to result in GASB pronouncements in the next few years. Also discussed was the changing work environment and the challenge of managing professionals in the next decade.

In preparing for this session, task force members reviewed selected books, reports and articles on various social and governmental changes anticipated in the 1990s, including: What Is Our Future?, an interim report of the International City Management Association's (ICMA) Future Visions Consortium, (1) Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives, (2) Megatrends: 2000, Ten New Directions for the 1990s, (3) "Forces Shaping Local Government in the 1990s," (4) "You'll Know It's the 21st Century When. . . .," (5) and "Georgia's Changing Social, Economic, and Demographic Environment: A Historical Perspective." (6) The task force also considered information obtained through a survey of other state GFOAs regarding their organizational structures, membership and strategic planning activities. Some findings of that survey are shown in Exhibit 1.

Having reviewed the context within which government finance professionals function, the task force turned its attention to the environmental factors internal to the association and how it could best serve its membership. In a two-day retreat, the task force prepared a concise mission statement and defined the association's core professional values, or principles to which the association is fundamentally committed. The reformlated mission statement became:

To promote and foster excellence in governmental financial management through programs that enhance the abilities of the government finance professional.

The core professional values were defined as:

* education/enrichment;

* sharing information and resources;

* high standards of practice;

* service to profession;

* integrity, creativity and accountability; and

* fellowship.

The task force also decided that five standing committees (Executive, Membership, Career Development, Governmental Relations and Technical Resources) would be needed to implement the plan, articulating a prupose for each committee. All five committee purposes contained in the statement of purpose directly relate to the association's mission statement and core professional values. The 23 goals of the association were formulated within the context of this committee structure and they are listed in this plan by committee. After formulation of the goals, five task force subcommittees (one for each of the five standing committees identified above) took responsibility for developing specific actions required for realization of each goal. The 81 actions in this plan relate to specific goals, with some goals requiring a single action and other goals as many as six or seven actions.

As an example of a statement of goal and actions, the executive committee's third goal is as follows:

Continue to meet the professional development needs of current and prospective members as the association grows and diversifies.

The specific actions and time frames related to this goal are:

* conduct periodic surveys of association members to determine training needs (1993-2000);

* update association-sponsored training programs on a regular basis (1992-2000); and

* ensure that all association training programs qualify for continuing professional education credits (1992-2000).

This strategic plan was adopted by the GGFOA Executive Board in August 1991 and by the GGFOA membership at its annual conference in October 1991. Through the process outlined above, the plan emerged from the association's membership, a product of considerable reflections, discussion and foresight. In reviewing the development of the organization, the association reaffirmed its original reason for being. The mission statement and newly formulated purposes and goals relate directly to and build upon the basic purposes articulated at its founding in 1985. Like any meaningful plan, the document that emerged provided flexibility by allowing for a smooth adjustment to changing environmental conditions without serious loss of effectiveness. The organization maintains the latitude to change direction from time to time, reflecting fundamental changes in its environment. It also provides for continuity and a continuous planning process. Goal number seven, for example, calls for the creation of a long-term planning committee to monitor and administer the plan and to prepare biannual updates. Clearly, while the planning document provides specific direction, it reflects as well a recognition that GGFOA is a growing and dynamic organization with an increasingly diverse association of government finance professionals.

The Georgia Government Finance Officers Association's strategic plan is available free from J. Virgil Moon, Director of Finance and Comptroller, Cobb County, Georgia, 10 E. Park Street, Marietta, GA 30090.


(1) International City Management Association, What Is Our Future? An Interim Progress Report of ICMA's Future Visions Consortium (Washington, DC: ICMA, 1989).

(2) Naisbitt, John, Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives (New York, NY: Warner Books, 1982).

(3) Naisbitt, John, and Aburdene, Patricia, Megatrends 2000: Ten New Directions For the 1990s (New York, NY: William Morrow and Co., 1990).

(4) Crupi, James, "Forces Shaping Local Government in the 1990s," Public Management, ICMA, December 1990, pp. 3-6.

(5) Waldrop, Judith, "You'll Know It's the 21st Century When . .," Public Management, ICMA, January 1991, pp. 3-6.

(6) Bachtel, Douglas C., Mandell, Marylou, and Lee, Everett, "Georgia's Changing Social, Economic, and Demographic Environment: A Historical Perspective," Issues Facing Georgia, Volume 2, No. 8, December 1988.

J. VIRGIL MOON, CPA, is the director of finance/comptroller for Cobb County, Georgia. He is a past president of the Georgia Government Finance Officers Association and president at the time the strategic plan was formulated. He is also on GFOA's Committee on Cash Management. THOMAS MAJORS is the financial economist for Cobb County, Georgia, and is historian and a member of the Executive Board of the Georgia Government Finance Officers Association.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Government Finance Officers Association; includes related article
Author:Moon, J. Virgil; Majors, Thomas
Publication:Government Finance Review
Date:Feb 1, 1992
Previous Article:Survey of state and local government employee retirement systems.
Next Article:Envisioning Information.

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