Strategic Plan team listens to stakeholders - culture seemed to be the common thread in their thinking. No one asked for better roads.

Strategic Plan WorkbookBy Pepper Parr

May 26, 2015


It is starting out as a different Strategic Plan review exercise.

Each term of office city council reviews the Strategic Plan and fine tunes the document to determine if any changes are needed.

In the past – prior to 2010 – the Strategic Plan was a collection of pretty pictures and bland statements. The current Mayor had at that time a Chief of Staff who thought the Strategic Plan should actually mean something and after more than eleven half days of meetings the city came out with a strategic Plan that set out three priorities:

Vibrant Neighbourhoods
Excellence in government

StPlan flip charts

Ideas and points made floated around the room like confetti at a wedding when the 2011 Strategic Plan was crafted – expect this next team to be as active with the flip charts.

Those three, as limited as they were, amounted to the best council could do at that time. They were led by one of the best Strategic Plan facilitators in the country who asked them at their first meeting what they had as a BHAG – the room was silent.

BHAG – a Big Hairy Audacious Goal – the city didn’t have one and the best the team that was crafting the Strategic Plan could do was talk about the things they wanted the city they ran to be able to do and achieve.

Magi McKeowen Lancaster look at day's poster work

Making sense of all the notes and the different ideas left a lot on the table – crafting a strategic plan of this scale was a first time event for several members of council.

Be friendly, be prosperous and have decent government. At the session Tuesday the staff and members of council talking part in crafting the 2015-2018 plan heard that we aren’t as friendly as we would like to be and that the prosperity isn’t all that well distributed.

How good a government are they? They all got re-elected – that must mean something – that the majority of the people surveyed did not think their government listens to them says something else.

This Council now has a full term under their belts and they know a lot more about civic government than when they started crafting the 2011 – 2014 Strategic Plan.

The Tuesday session was listening to numerous stakeholders – all the way from the Cycling Committee to the Art Gallery of Burlington and more than a handful in between.

The trend in most of the thinking is that being a “smart” community making use of technology and ensuring there was a strong cultural base was the best way to reach the goal that everyone wanted – even though that goal was never spelled out.

Noack interview - city culture days 014

Culture was the brightest thread seen during the Strategic Plan session that listened to the Stakeholders.

The “automobile” and good roads and lower taxes didn’t get very many mentions. The tone was that if we can become more diverse, have a strong sense of cultural well-being people will want to move to Burlington and corporations will want to locate here – and if those two things can happen – we will be a prosperous community.

The delegations made were for the most part very solid. There were a few that said they got very short notice which suggests there are some snags to be worked out in the flow of things – but they crew setting out the Strategy for the next three years is off to a good start.

Taylor with Black smiling

Georgina Black of KPMG facilitated the 2011 Strategic Plan workshops and grew this council much more than they expected. Bringing her back would be a smart corporate move.

The delegations need some thought before they can be reported on in any depth – we will get back to you with that.

No BHAG yet – and this |Council may not yet have one on them. Time will tell that part of the story.

As yet there is no facilitator in place – staff report that they are negotiating with someone – they said that more than a month ago.

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1 comment to Strategic Plan team listens to stakeholders – culture seemed to be the common thread in their thinking. No one asked for better roads.

  • hans jacobs

    I’m not favourably impressed by someone who wants a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” to start a Strategic Planning session. “Audacious”…really? Why? That kind of attitude can cause expensive problems, like piers. It is risky to assume that a group who got their jobs by winning a popularity contest (election) would have a clear understanding of the strategic planning process; some might while others might not. Much better, IMO, to start with some training, including a discussion of what the characteristics of a “goal” are (or should be) for participants; e.g., how would anyone/everyone know when a goal had been achieved? How does a goal contribute to the Mission? etc.
    I’m sure that the Faculty of Business at McMaster has a number of Strategic Planning experts that could facilitate the sessions.