As a result of the great work Amanda did with KidsQuest Children’s Museum (I’m a KidsQuest board member), I asked her to work with me and my leadership team at the Meydenbauer Center – Bellevue, Washington’s $8 million premier convention center and performing arts theatre. We operate with a strategic as well as annual business and marketing plans. We regularly scan our environment, and seek out and receive feedback from our customers.
We didn’t need to re-do our mission or start again with a strategic plan. We didn’t need more analysis. We needed a shorter-term strategy that intersected with the good work we’d already completed. Amanda worked with me up front to understand exactly what I was looking for and created a program that fit both my needs and my budget.
In just five sessions, we developed an 18-month strategic framework that specifically addresses how we will deal with issues that affect us in the new economy. She helped us put together a one-page strategic framework, with a Thematic Goal. From this flowed four Defining Objectives that aligned with five Standard Operating Objectives. Efficient. Practical. Cost-effective. She definitely delivered what we wanted and where there was an opportunity for her to share a little more of her expertise with us she did so!
For example, our group – like any group – had some exterior issues at play. Amanda was great a reading them and encouraging our team to frankly discuss and look at ways to resolve the issues. The most rewarding part of our work is we have a vision for our future, a game plan for how to get there and we have the tools to make our meetings more effective to assist us in reaching our goals.
We look forward to keeping a working relationship with Roam Consulting so that if/when we get derailed she can help get us back on track and keep us there!
“Come Explore, Play and Learn Together” is the tagline for KidsQuest Children’s Museum in Bellevue, Washington. It also describes my vision for how it should feel to participate in effective strategic planning. After completing a feasibility study, KidsQuest came to me to help them get ready for a future capital campaign by developing their first strategic plan.
Although not quite ready to embark on a capital campaign, KidsQuest has experienced meteoric growth. To give you an idea of how fast they’ve grown, Putter Bert, KidsQuest Executive Director reports, “We originally anticipated 60,000 first-year visitors when we opened in 2005. In reality, we saw 166,000 visitors and 4,500 new family memberships. Since then we have averaged 145,000 visits annually!”
Their continued success is due in large part to an exceptional Executive Director and a dynamic board of directors who have a strategic intuition about doing the right thing, right. Many already had previous planning experiences that had left them feeling frustrated, tired, and jaded. They wanted a process that would 1) leverage the work already done in the feasibility study, so they wouldn’t have to repeat stakeholder activities, 2) respect the time, talents and energy of the leadership group involved, 3) keep the focus on a few, significant priorities, and 4) be succinct and easily memorable.
I worked closely with Putter and the Planning Committee to create a process that met their needs. For example, we used a minimal committee structure and teams of two or three planning volunteers with expertise who could quickly and easily execute specific tasks. This worked well when we decided to revise the Vision, Mission and Core Values of the museum. Believe it or not, it only took two meetings of three people to get it done!
Putter notes that as a young organization, there was also a tendency for people to reference the original founding vision, instead of looking forward to where the museum was heading. Teasing out all of the points of view in a positive and productive manner was an important part of helping to shift the focus forward.
“Amanda has a great knack to ensure everyone is involved, and all the voices and opinions get heard. She was not the same-old, same-old. Some of our more seasoned volunteers found her compelling and that helped keep them in the game.”
The plan brought together the various board perspectives – both historians and visionaries – into a shared vision. And knowing where they are heading has helped keep the focus on priorities and off of the tension that comes with conflicting points of view.
I used the 5 Bold Action Steps, a visual priority map, as a way to help the group keep the big picture in mind. It also brought new life to a process that some board members feared might be boring. Instead, they discovered that planning can be a fun and visual activity with an end product that lives on in the organization. As Putter comments:
“We constantly refer to the 5 Bold Action Steps of our plan as we move forward. It’s posted in our conference room. The committee heads keep their strategic goals front and center, and our new Mission and Vision is on all of our agendas.”
The best strategic plans align your activities with your vision. When play is a core part of your business, shouldn’t everyone involved have some fun?
Seldovia Village Tribe (SVT) is vital to the health and well-being of the remote communities it serves on the Kenai Peninsula. Tribal headquarters are located in Seldovia, a village on the shores of beautiful Cook Inlet. There are no roads to Seldovia. The only access to this once ancient gathering place for trade is by plane or boat.
Yet, SVT has a far reach, serving more than 3,000 Natives and non-Natives with medical and dental services, prevention and community support programs. Now one of the largest employers on the Peninsula, SVT contributes to the region’s economic development through retail, hospitality and transportation enterprises, and environmental protection programs.
As a result of their recent and rapid growth, SVT leadership recognized it was time to develop a strategic plan and formalize their vision, mission and core values. Keren Kelly [see photo], Associate Director of SVT’s medical clinic and Strategic Planning Lead, invited me to help them facilitate their process in spring – early summer 2009.
Strategic planning is more than a business activity. It’s an opportunity to build relationships – even friendships – by engaging people in conversations that lift the spirit and galvanize them around a shared sense of the future. For six months, we worked hard to produce a plan that included input from staff, clients and customers, and the larger community. We grappled with big issues, like how to:
- Create better understanding of the tribe and its contributions to the community, in its communities.
- Recruit and retain staff in remote areas.
- Create internal systems to better manage and communicate with a large staff in multiple locations.
- Remain anchored in SVT’s geographic heritage while maintaining a strong connection to tribal members, wherever they are.
We also incorporated opportunities for staff and council leaders to connect in ways that created a deeper organizational understanding of SVT’s history and roots as they looked to define their future. I used graphic recording to create a timeline of pictures and words that allowed the group to see their history ‘come to life.’ Keren reports that this visual timeline was critical to creating their shared vision: “The timeline allowed us to see the history and accomplishments of our tribe’s mission. It helped us look towards the future – where we needed to go from there.”
As we worked together over the summer, a deeper sense of teamwork and shared purpose among staff also emerged. Keren reflects on this as one of the most meaningful results of the plan. “You drew out each person and brought us together in a way that allowed us to respect each other through our own life experiences and created an empathetic atmosphere for future relations. I especially liked your ability to move through complex and emotional topics which could have halted the process entirely.”
Yes, strategic planning is serious work. And, it creates meaningful connections and better relationships. When people meet each other in authentic discussions, the results achieved can be long-lasting. It is a privilege for me to help leaders reconnect their organizations, and the people within them, to their higher purpose.
Mike Stewart, Executive Director of Boyer’s Children’s Clinic, chose to work with Amanda recently to develop a new strategic plan. ‘We were operating from a strategic plan adopted in 2008,’ Mike reflected. ‘Its original shelf life was three years; it had run its course and exceeded it in some ways.’
In his third year as Executive Director, this was Mike’s first strategic planning process with his board and senior staff. Mike knew both groups had an incredible wealth of knowledge, and his first goal was to bring out that expertise and utilize it for shared decision making. He wanted to move the team from the centralized leadership style with which they had been familiar, to a more collaborative style that better matched his leadership view for Boyer.
Mike’s second goal was to set everyone up for success. He wanted a consultant who could guide the strategic planning process as well as encourage leadership and engagement from his team. After reaching out to partner organizations for referrals and asking for a few proposals, Amanda came out on top.
Amanda had the right temperament for our group. She gave the staff appropriate kicks out of their ruts, she had the respect of the board, and she was able to reference other organizations, which helped us diversify our thinking.
Mike’s third goal was to create a planning process that both board and senior staff could buy in to. Amanda put the first planning task – information gathering – in the hands of Mike’s competent senior staff. ‘She pretty much convinced us that we were the information experts and the board’s decisions would only be as good as the information we provided to them,’ noted Mike.
Amanda worked with the leadership team to determine what kind of information the board needed to provide them with an in-depth snapshot of Boyer’s major successes and challenges. This included a financial trends analysis, clinical and client trends, as well as an assessment of competitors and allies. The task was eye-opening for Mike and his team. While the staff had access to much of the information they needed, not all of it was easy to utilize.
As a result of working with Amanda, we changed the way we look at the information we need to monitor our performance. And we noticed some major holes in the way we were operating, which came to light as a result of the information-gathering Amanda encouraged us to do.
As a preamble to the planning retreat, the senior staff presented the strategic information in focused segments over several board meetings. The board was able to digest a full picture of Boyer, including its history and current challenges. The transparency produced lively discussion about the implications and lessons learned.
As a wrap up to the planning process, Amanda facilitated a half-day strategic planning retreat. ‘The plan almost wrote itself that day,’ Mike remembers. ‘We have a Vision Map with the outcomes we want to achieve. We have one-page plan with Five Bold Action Steps that guide us. It’s easy to understand and gives staff operational flexibility from year to year.’
‘With Amanda facilitating the process, there was both efficiency and progress. Amanda did a good job working with different board and staff personalities. She was valuable as third party giving information to the board and also efficient with time and followed the clock, which was important for us.’ Today, Boyer is implementing its strategic goals and feeling successful with the process. Having participated fully in strategic planning, Boyer’s leadership is continuing to move forward, working together.