Leading a Library Strategic Planning Process (2020)

In July 2020, the Dean of the Library commissioned me and another internal leader to administer a planning process that would produce four deliverables:

  • core values

  • mission

  • vision

  • goals

The project lasted four months, during which I carried out two major responsibilities:

  • devising the activities that generated information needed to support planning

  • moderating the Steering Team’s deliberations as it produced drafts of all four deliverables

I designed the following data-gathering activities:

  • identification of 65 employees’ top five personal core values

  • critiques of legacy mission and vision statements

  • benchmarking against similar organizations’ mission and vision statements

  • vision interviews with 24 employees

  • eight focus groups that elicited insights regarding the strategic issues facing the library

I relied on scholarly and professional literature to guide the planning process and influence the shape of the four deliverables. I also moderated approximately 15 working meetings in which the Steering Team read, wrote, deliberated, voted, and edited.

We decided from the outset to use inclusive processes in our planning. Therefore, we alternated between bottom-up, top-down, and representative approaches when collecting and analyzing data, drafting statements and goals, and making decisions. Essentially all of the organization’s full-time employees were involved in the planning project in some way.

Additionally, we adopted the philosophy that planning was more valuable than the resulting plan. This freed us to produce strategic directions and goals that constituted a living document. Achieving perfect deliverables was never our goal. Although I was happy with what we produced, I was even more pleased with the way that the process helped to build the organization’s capacity for future planning.

Below is a sample from one of the deliverables. Entitled “Matrix of Strategic Goals,” this document identified dozens of actions that the library aims to implement over the course of three years. All of the goals are subordinated to one or more of seven strategic directions that collectively outline the library’s strategy for the foreseeable future.

Sample from the "Matrix of Strategic Goals"

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