Category Archives: Collaboration

Reflections from Emerging Leaders Academy Graduate: LaMonica Upton

LaMonica Upton, graduate from the Emerging Leaders Academy, speaks on behalf of her Fall 2016 ELA class.

LaMonica Upton, graduate from the Emerging Leaders Academy, speaks on behalf of her Fall 2016 ELA class.

Comments Delivered by LaMonica Upton, Livable Neighborhoods Liason for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, KS,

On January 11th, 2017

Good afternoon and thank you all for joining us.  THANK you to the University of Kansas Public Management Center for offering such a great program.  To the supervisors, managers, Department heads who thought it was worthwhile to expose your teams to such a phenomenal program.  Noel, I am so happy that it was YOU that lead us in this journey.  Your spirit and passion are reflected in the work of the PMC and they are BLESSED to have you.

ELA friends, what an AMAZING journey we are completing today.  We all travelled to this place via different vehicles.  For some of us it was:

Our turn – our organizations have a simple selection process “Your up next”

Good for your career path – taking a leadership class was a part of your “Goals” or a directive from the powers that be.

This is what leaders do – I should take this class and it will look great on my resume

Kicking and Screaming – Why do I need to do this, I’m not a leader, this is a waste of my time

Horseshack Moment – “Oooh  pick me, pick me”

The bottom line is that WE all ended up in the same place at the same time.  Kismet, fate, destiny, coincidence, fluke, chance or one of my favorite words to use “Serendipity”.

Reflect on these things:   We’ve learned a lot ~How will/can we use what we’ve learned?  ~Will it make a difference?  YES IT WILL!! If YOU use it!

As we move from this time and place to the next adventure in our professional and personal lives, Let’s strive to be Multipliers of professionalism, Unity, and Love and Diminishers of Mediocrity, Self-Doubt and Hate.  Fulfill your dreams of your GREATEST.

Trust yourself “Who you are”, Embrace the fact that you have something to offer

Don’t let others design your life for you, be intentional in finding situations that play on your strengths.

It is not simply enough to be Present!!! Amy Cuddy says that “Presence emerges when we feel personally powerful, which allows us to be acutely attuned to our most sincere selves.”  Our families, friends and communities need US to show up and when we do it gives others permission to SHINE!!!

Thank you

Breaking down the silos: Improving collaboration among city departments

This special report from American City & County highlights an exciting project we’ve been working on with the City of Olathe so we’re reposting here.

Olathe, Kan., builds a collaborative culture to improve service delivery
By Jeff Johnston

Nowhere is the image of a silo more familiar than in America’s heartland, where the tall structures that contain harvested grain function as essential hubs in the spokes of agricultural commerce. But, silos take on negative connotations when they describe government departments that function independently with limited interaction or coordination with other organizations.

As resources become more scarce and service demands increase, many cities and counties are breaking down their organizational silos to foster cooperation and collaboration among their internal departments. By coordinating the use of limited funds, equipment and staff, cities and counties are finding new efficiencies and maintaining or improving their service levels.

Olathe, Kan., a suburb of Kansas City, recently embarked on a journey to eliminate the organizational silos between its departments and build a culture of collaboration instead. Knowing that they could not just tell departments to work together, City Manager Michael Wilkes and Assistant City Manager Susan Sherman sought to develop department heads’ collaborative leadership skills and recognize those skills in their performance reviews. The city worked with the University of Kansas Public Management Center and the School of Public Affairs and Administration to develop a supervisory training program for its managers that, among other things, included practical exercises designed to teach supervisors the skills they need to be effective collaborators. Researchers at the university are measuring the effectiveness of the training program and tracking the city’s transition to its new culture.

A ‘Shift in Thinking’
For the last decade, Olathe has been on a quest to deliver exceptional public service and has been measuring its progress toward that goal with annual citizen surveys. The surveys, administered by locally based ETC Institute, gauge residents’ satisfaction with city services, including emergency services, parks, water and wastewater, street and building maintenance, and communication. As all departments have been working toward improving their survey results, however, each became inwardly focused on their individual operations. “We were doing so much as a rapidly growing city, a lot of people were just focused on what they did and not what other departments were doing,” Sherman says.

Although collaboration was essential for certain tasks, such as emergency planning and response, elsewhere it was not pursued. “Everybody is so task-oriented, and collaboration really takes time,” Wilkes says. “We get so focused on the task and accomplishing the task and checking the stuff off the list that we don’t look for those opportunities to collaborate with others.”

So, when Wilkes and Sherman set out to create a new supervisory training program for city managers, they wanted to incorporate collaborative leadership skills training into the program. “We’re not going to get [all] the people that we’d like to have; we’re not going to have all the resources that we need for all of the stuff that we need; so, we’re going to have to figure out different ways to deal with and address our problems, and collaboration and innovation are the ways we’re going to get there,” Wilkes says.

The city began working with the University of Kansas Public Management Center to develop the program that would start with the city’s executive leadership team and, over one year, bring together managers and assistant managers in groups representing each department for three days of training. The main goals of the program were to link the supervisors’ responsibilities to the city’s stated vision, values and mission, and to teach collaborative leadership skills.

“When we talk about collaborative leadership, what we’re really talking about is that we have to learn to align very different goals at times; we have to coordinate multiple partners; we have to learn to share information effectively; we have to learn to work through conflict so that we can achieve the best possible solution to these pressing public problems that are not isolated to any one sector,” says Heather Getha-Taylor, assistant professor in the University of Kansas School of Public Affairs and Administration. “We’ve realized that producing public value is best achieved when we overcome the fragmented and siloed approaches – when we can take an integrated approach and solve problems using expertise, resources and information that spans boundaries.”

The training program also aimed to change the mindset of department supervisors who were focused on being direct service providers and building up the capacity of their departments internally. “It represents a need for a shift in thinking,” says Jonathan Morris, instructor and program manager for the University of Kansas Public Management Center. “If local government has traditionally been the direct service provider, what we hope to address in this training is to get the leaders and supervisors to rethink their role and see themselves instead as the convener of multiple providers, as the collaborator of public and private entities or intergovernmental collaboration. So, as you begin to rethink that role, it requires new skill sets.”

A small group setting and specific exercises created an environment that encouraged collaboration. After the three-day training, participants met with their small groups independently to discuss how they were putting their new skills into practice and making progress toward a collaborative project with another department. Also, collaboration was added to the performance goals of managers, who needed to show how they were engaging other departments, Wilkes says.

Collaboration Pays Off
To measure the results of the training program, University of Kansas researchers are conducting a long-term survey of city supervisors. Participants not only report their immediate reactions to the training, they must report on changes in their behavior and results over time.

A final report is due in October, but preliminary survey results show that the training has been successful in showing managers the value of collaboration. “Those who participated in the training perceive collaboration as key to getting their jobs done, and they agree that collaboration is worth the extra effort involved,” Getha-Taylor says. “We see a strong positive relationship between participation in the training and self-awareness, listening and communication skills. Those are the key collaboration skills that we need to be developing.”

In practice, collaborative efforts paid off for Olathe last winter when it experienced some of the heaviest snowfall and winter storms in recent history. In preparing its snow response plan last year, the streets department for the first time worked with the fire and police departments to develop a snow-clearing strategy. Previously, the streets department created its plan independently and had divided its crews to focus on different types of roads.

By working with the emergency departments to prioritize route clearing and by strategically directing plows during and after storms, the city improved its performance even during one of its worst winters. “We were good at snowplowing before, but we were outstanding in the winter of 2010-2011,” Wilkes says. “We had more snow than we usually have in Kansas City, and we got better results from our customers than ever before. And, I think it was because we worked together in a way that we had never worked together before.”

Although collaborative efforts might take more time and the outcomes might not be clear at the beginning, Wilkes and Sherman have seen that the risks are worth the effort. To break down the silos, they say local government leaders need to brush up on a few skills and then arm themselves with a little courage to take the first steps. “The first thing to do is to jump in and try something. Take a little risk and try something you haven’t done before, and hope it is successful,” Sherman says. “But if it isn’t, learn from it and try again, and try again.”

Jeff Johnston is an Atlanta-based freelance writer.

Faculty Research You Can Use: Making Collaboration Work

As we have watched and listened to the news from Japan for the last few weeks, our hearts go out to the people and we marvel at their perseverance in the face of such tremendous challenges. We also are clearly reminded of our professional obligations to do our part in preparing for such events in our backyards.

A recent article published by Public Administration faculty member Chris Silvia is directly relevant to this need. Since natural and man-made disasters rarely occur within a single jurisdiction and the ability of any one organization to effectively respond by itself is frequently exceeded, a collaborative approach to emergency management can best address the resulting needs.

But organizations cannot wait until the moment of crisis to establish these collaborative relationships. Effective collaboration requires that the collaborative partners have the time and opportunity to:

• see that their ability to achieve their individual goals and mission can be enhanced through teamwork,
• build a shared understanding of the resources that each partner brings to the table,
• establish a shared vision for their work together,
• engender the support of stakeholders, and
• build trusting relationships.

To read more about this research, see Chris Silvia. 2011. Collaborative Governance Concepts for Successful Network Leadership. State and Local Government Review 43 (1): 66-71.

A How-to Guide for Working Effectively Across Boundaries

Public sector employees have been trained to deliver results within the boundaries of hierarchy, but what new skills are necessary to work effectively through networks, partnerships, and collaborations?

Dr. Heather Getha-Taylor, who will be joining the faculty of the KU Public Administration Department in the fall, will present a roundtable session at the City & County Management conference next week intended to help attendees collaborate more effectively.

The “Identifying and Developing Boundary-Spanning Skills” session will offer insights on the competencies that are linked to boundary-spanning success. Dr. Getha-Taylor will also present evidence of collaborative competencies among government, private sector, and nonprofit managers who together are working to address complex public problems. The discussion will conclude by considering the ways in which public organizations can foster collaborative skill building to support effective partnerships.

Click here for the complete conference schedule and registration information.

Economic Update Panel on the City & County Management Conference Agenda

Last year’s City & County Management Conference focused on tools and information to help local government officials through the current troubled economic times. This year we’re looking ahead with the theme, “Governance, Collaboration and Leadership: Working Together in the Next Decade.”

But with local governments still dealing with the fallout of this historic recession, we’ve scheduled an “Economic Update Panel” for the conference that will take place next week in Lawrence on April 22-23. The panelists include:

Dr. George Kahn, Vice President, Macroeconomics and Monetary Policy, U.S. Federal Reserve, Kansas City
Dr. John Wong, Interim Director, Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs, Wichita State University
Dr. Stuart J. Little, Little Government Relations

We hope you can join us for the panel and the other practitioner-oriented sessions that make up the 62nd City & County Management Conference. Click here for complete agenda and registration information.

Collaboration – a way to stretch finite resources and the theme of this year’s City County Management Conference

A quick review of the word’s definition provides some insight on why collaboration is so powerful: Collaboration is a process where two or more people or organizations work together because of their shared goals, especially around an intellectual endeavor that is creative in nature, by sharing knowledge, learning, and building consensus.

As we all struggle to do more with less–both lower budgets and fewer staff–working together can capitalize on everyone’s strengths and keep us from reinventing wheels that are already successfully rolling along elsewhere. This year’s Kansas City County Management Conference highlights Collaboration, Governance and Leadership in the keynotes and concurrent sessions. The focus will be on tools and ideas from experienced practitioners who have worked creatively and collaboratively toward goals in their communities.

Review the conference agenda and registration info here. We hope you can join us for a few spring days in Lawrence on April 22 & 23!

62nd Kansas City County Management Conference coming up

Governance, Collaboration, and Leadership: Working Together in a New Decade

The 2010 KCCM Conference will be presented on April 22-23 at the Kansas Memorial Union in Lawrence.This year’s program highlights projects that reach across cities, counties, and agencies to effectively and creatively meet the needs of constituents.

David Warm, Executive Director of the Mid-America Regional Council ( will offer the keynote address on “Collaborative Governance in a New Decade.” The conference also features a panel discussion on collaborating in Kansas, featuring Dennis Hays, County Administrator from the Unified Government of Wyandotte County; Howard Partington, City Administrator in Great Bend; and Randy Riggs, City Manager in Newton.

Concurrent sessions will include presentations by a number of Kansas county managers and address issues related to leadership in collaboration for economic development, working with nonprofits, tackling poverty in the community, engaging minority communities, and collaboration in emergency management. We’ve also scheduled an “Economic Update” panel to check in on the state of the Kansas economy in the year ahead. Additional information about the conference and registration can be found at