KidsQuest Children's Museum Bellevue“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 make sure everyone is involved, all the voices and opinions.  She was not the same-old, same-old.  Some of our more seasoned volunteers found her compelling and that help 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.

5 Bold Action Steps, a visual priority map

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?

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