Facilitating…the art of making a task easier.

Today I facilitated a strategic planning review session for a municipal public works.  Involved in the process was the manager, upper level staff, and board members of the public works department.  I had been amazed at the average length of service of the Board members at this facility.  The newest was in the second year of a two year term and the average was approximately 15 years of service.  Some of them had over 20 years of service to their municipality.  I am always amazed at what prompts a person to continue to volunteer their services.  What gives them the satisfaction to devote their time and energy.   Luckily in the public works industry,  many times it simply is to “contribute to the greater good” and to just do what’s right.  Of course, some may have political aspirations, but fortunately those are few and far between.

Today’s session was an update to a plan which i facilitated 2 years ago.  After getting to know the participants two years ago, I was able to better guage the group dynamics this year and get even more participation from them.

One of the techniques we used was to brainstorm regarding changes to their environment in the past two years to develop a new SWOT analysis.  We then reviewed the previous SWOT list and determined if those items were in fact, still relevant.  The group was surprised at how some things had changed in two short years.  We eliminated those things that were no longer relevant, added the new items and came up with a revised SWOT analysis.

The group did a similar exercise for overall goals by referring to their SWOT analysis.  We developed a list of 15 major goals for the 1 – 5 year period of time.  After some discussion, that list was reduced to12 major goals.   The group voted on their priorities and we proceeded to list strategies in broad terms to full fill the goals.

From this point, the staff will develop a timeline,  more detail on the strategies and tie it to the business plan and budget.

It is great to see organizations encouraging their staff and board to communicate together and listen to the input from each group.  What it creates is an open communications process and a dialogue that would not have taken place otherwise.   Staff has a buy-in to the goals and feels ownership of the progress of the organization and pride in the accomplishments.

This type of an exercise can be done in one day on a weekend.  The preparation time to fully prepare for an onsite facilitation for me is approximately 1.5 hours preparation for each hour on site.  To summarize the event, generally takes approximately 2-3 hours depending on the complexity of the summary.

The payback for the organizations that time to plan no matter how detailed,  is time and money well spent.  When you take your strategic plan and incorporate it into your business plan, budget and employee incentives, you encourage teamwork and cooperation.

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