New approach needed in management of cities warns expert

A strategist at the University of Liverpool has warned that cities across the UK will struggle to compete with their global rivals if leaders fail to take a new approach to the way they are managed.

Tom Cannon, Professor of Strategic Development, said there will be ‘winners and losers’ as dynamic and ambitious cities develop visionary strategies to ensure their future success. He said that cities around the world are currently being transformed by new civic leaders, new ways of thinking, new agendas and a recognition that the city is once again at the heart of the economic, cultural and social agenda.

He warned that traditional approaches to the management of cities will lead to those cities that don’t change being left behind by those that are managed strategically.

Professor Cannon said: “Cities are vital agents not only in economic development but in a host of key environmental, cultural, educational and social issues.  Our research confirms that the most dynamic and successful cities are run by teams who are developing new ways of leading and managing their city. Despite this, developing, improving and shaping the leadership and management of cities is all too often neglected.

“Cities need a new generation of leaders and managers who will strive to respond to new agendas in creative ways and will capitalise on their city’s assets. When you think a city can have the same financial turnover as a major global company, you can see the importance of strategic management that engages the private sector.

“We must change the mindset of top leaders to see that cities must be managed in ways that blend important aspects of the civic tradition with innovative, entrepreneurial and strategic thinking, while appreciating the nature of their city and the challenges and changes it faces. Public servants and traditional public administration thinking will just not cut it in the future.”          
Ambitious leaders and key organisations are currently driving economic, cultural and social development in the cities they manage. This development is in turn is being recognised and rewarded by policy makers.

Professor Cannon said in the next decade many of the UK’s biggest cities will either move up or down the ‘success escalator’. He is working to ensure leaders are better educated about how to manage modern cities to help prepare them for the challenges they face.

He added: “Strategically managing cities properly for their future development is vital for everyone. When cities are growing, jobs prosper, wages are higher, social services and education improve and culture develops. This in turn attracts business and Government funding and policy is designated to these top performing cities and this improves the overall quality of life for everyone who lives there.

“Cities are crucial not only to their local economy but the competitiveness of the whole country.”

Professor Cannon will be speaking at University of Liverpool Knowledge Edge Series event entitled: ‘The Leadership and Management of Cities: New Days, New Ways’ on Thursday, 29 October at Jury’s Inn, Keel Wharf, Liverpool.

The key content will include: managing change, integrating systems and structures, partnership and collaborations, welding the civic to the strategic and partnering between elected members and officers and officials.

Other speakers include: Sir Howard Newby, University of Liverpool Vice-Chancellor; Professor Dominic Elliott from the University’s Management School; Sir David Henshaw, Chair of NHS North West; and Dermot Finch, the CEO of Centre for Cities.


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