Overcoming The Challenges of Acting Regionally in Greater Kansas City

by

October 11, 2010
Peter deSilva, 2010 Chamber Chairman and President and COO of UMB Financial Corporation

2010 Chamber Chairman Peter deSilva, Chairman & COO of UMB Financial Corporation

I just returned from The Chamber’s Leadership exchange Trip to Indianapolis.  It was another great trip to a city much like our own.  There was much to see and do like their world class children’s museum, the planned city of Carmel, their beautifuly restored Union Station and a vibrant downtown.  There were also the usual talks about efforts at regionalism.  While Indianapolis has certainly made great progress since the consolidation of the city and county in their UNIGOV structure in 1970, as they admitted, there is still much more work to do to make their community even more unified and successful on the global stage.

I was particularly impressed with the current and past political leadership especially former Indianapolis mayor Bill Hudnut who served from 1976 – 1992.  He is still revered in the community for his bold vision and long -term strategy for Indianapolis.  One of the things that he said which caught my attention was his vision that Indianapolis would be a competitive, collaborative and compassionate city.  Throughout the three days, we saw evidence of all three of these attributes at work.  He also talked about their regional approach and the success and failures in that regard.  That got me thinking about our own challenges with regionalism.

As I sat and listened to the mayor along other speakers, something struck me and I began to write words down on a piece of paper.  Words like communication and collaboration began to pop into my head.  I began to think about how regionalism has always been a daunting challenge in greater Kansas City.  Then I realized that maybe we needed a progression, a sequencing to our efforts.  It was not long before I came up with the four C’s for effective regionalism in greater Kansas City.

The four C’s are: Communication, Cooperation, Coordination, and Collaboration.  Think about this as a pyramid with communication at the bottom and collaboration at the top.  It struck me that many of our regional efforts have started with discussions about complex collaboration while we were not even effectively communicating with each other.  The reason that you must start at the bottom of the pyramid with communication is because in order to be successful at the top, you must have an essential ingredient that is sometimes in short supply in our community and that is trust.  Trust of course must be earned and it can only be earned by progressing upward through the four C’s.  Without trust, we will be doomed to failure on major regional initiatives.

So I go to thinking about what our political, civic and business leaders could do to begin to change all of this.  Well, maybe we could start with dialogue (communication) about what the big regional issues are without any preconceived solutions.  It would be great if the mayor’s of let’s say two big cities on either side of the state line convened a mayor’s conference to talk about significant regional matters.  Topics like wastewater treatment, air quality, transportation, public safety, and linking our sustainability efforts might be a good starting point since all of these are regional issues that will take regional solutions.  If this meeting were held and it were deemed successful, maybe we would then be in a position to take the next step and find ways to cooperate on these matters and many more.  Who knows how far we might actually go up the pyramid of the four C’s if we just give it a try.  I, for one hope that we do.

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2 Responses to “Overcoming The Challenges of Acting Regionally in Greater Kansas City”

  1. Sly James Says:

    Peter, I agree with your excellent thoughts. I strongly agree that TRUST is a major issue to be addressed. It must be addressed, in my opinion, through a geniune desire to form personal relationships. For that reason, perhaps we should dedicate the early “Mayors’s Conference’s” to simply getting together to build those relationships that we will need to tackle the issues down the line. There is much communicating that needs to be done and much trust to be built.

    Thank you for your excellent leadership.

  2. Eric Morgenstern Says:

    Peter’s right…it all starts with effective communications. And it was very encouraging to hear several of our elected officials and staff make plans to get together to begin that dialog to strengthen personal relationships.

    Kudos to Peter for his steadfast leadership this year. I hope all our civic leaders accept his challenge — on a personal level — so that each of us does our part, as we work towards building an even more collaborative community.

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