Building Communities
Latest Blog Posts

"Plan Week" & the Building Communities Strategic Planning Process

Building Communities uses a seven-session planning process referred to as Plan Week, which can be conducted in as little as two, or up to five days. The number of days needed primarily depends on how many evening Voice of the Community meetings are included in order to receive opinions and recommendations from the general citizenry.
The Building Communities process is objective, comprehensive and expeditious:

Communities are required to select a Plan Director and a Steering Committee.   The Plan Director is responsible for building the Steering Committee, making and coordinating Plan Week arrangements, ensuring adequate Steering Committee participation in the process and completion of the Essential Actions Steps Planner.  In addition, the Director convenes the Steering Committee in order to help ensure plan implementation, which typically is carried out during the ensuing three to five years.

Plan Week

Session Objective
1 - Key Success Factor Analysis Determining the community's comparative advantage relative to Key Success Factors for community and economic development
2 - Quality-of-life Initiatives Identifying the broad quality-of-life concerns and issues that impact community livability
3 - Community Organizer Assessment Addressing and defining the human, financial and technical dynamics of community and economic development
4 - Voice of the Community Meeting Receiving the opinions and recommendations of the general citizenry  about economic strategies and quality-of-life  concerns and issues
5 - Strategy and Quality-of-life Initiatives Selection Selecting community and economic development strategies and  quality-of-life initiatives
6 - Assigning Essential Action Steps Assigning "who does what by when" and outlining tasks required to successfully implement the strategic plan
7 - Elevator Speech  Identifying and documenting the underlying reasons why people care about their community and what they desire for its future

The seven sessions of Plan Week shown above are designed to capture the "full body" of community and economic development— mind, heart and muscle:

Session One: Key Success Factor Analysis

Plan Week begins with a fast-paced analysis of a host of Key Success Factors relevant to the 25 community and economic development strategies.   

Key Success Factors are conditions or abilities a community must possess in order for a strategy to be successfully implemented.  These factors are grouped into seven categories: Assets, Capital, Expertise, Government, Infrastructure, Labor and Location.
In this first session, Steering Committee members are asked to respond to questions on a five-point scale using wireless response cards (we call them "clickers") to determine the community's comparative advantage (or lack thereof).

Immediately after this session, the Committee receives its Prioritized Strategy Report—a ranking of the 25 strategies on a scale of 0 to 100 based on the likelihood of successful implementation.   Strategies that score 85 or higher are highly recommended for implementation, those scoring 70-84 are considered borderline and those below 70 are considered challenging or very challenging.

Session Two:  Quality-of-Life Initiatives

The second session asks the question: "What would improve the quality of life in your community?"  The answers can, and often do, lead to the development of Quality-of-life Initiatives (QoLIs).   

The committee members are asked to brainstorm the major issues or concerns they have about the livability of their community.   Depending upon the condition and direction of the community, many topics may be brought forward, such as housing availability, adequacy of public transportation, conditions of roads and streets, needs of emergency and law enforcement services and quality and service of local health care facilities.

This session is actually conducted in two parts because the initial findings of the Steering Committee are then presented in Session Four (Voice of the Community Meeting) in order to receive feedback and other input about local quality of life from the general citizenry.

Session Three:  Community Organizer Assessment

The part of community and economic development strategic planning often ignored is determining the capacity of the community to implement its plan.  Capacity relates to the human, financial and technical resources needed to implement one or more of the strategies.

Building Communities addresses this typical planning shortcoming by using its Community Organizer Tool, which presents a series of questions specific to the business development and community development aspirations of the community.   Using the clicker technology for the second time, Steering Committee members assess and determine the current capacity level of the community. 

Building Communities then develops a report that presents a series of very specific recommendations about how the community can increase its capacity in order to successfully implement its strategic plan.   While this report is considered as background about the selected strategies and the steps needed to implement the plan, it is integral to the overall advancement of the community. 

Session Four:  Voice of the Community Meeting

The entire community is invited to this fourth Plan Week session.   It is typically an evening meeting and is carefully designed to receive broader input about the strategies and initiatives needed for a complete strategic plan.

During this session, two overall objectives are met.  The order of addressing these objectives is determined by the Plan Director.  The first objective is to present all 25 strategies as ranked by the Steering Committee and to receive input through asking two questions:

The second objective is to present the results of the Steering Committee’s work on Quality-of lifeInitiatives (from Session Two) and to receive feedback on these topics. The results from this session are then added to the results from Session One, creating the Enhanced Strategy Report, which factors in the desires of the community to the logical assessment (Prioritized Strategy Report) completed in the first session.  The 25 strategies are then scored on a -200 to +300 point scale.

Session Five:  Strategy and QoLI Selection

After the Steering Committee has considered the "full body" of community and economic development (the Mind in Sessions One and Two, the Heart in Session Four, and the Muscle in Session Three), it is ready to make a final selection of strategies and QoLIs.  This is accomplished in two steps, once again using the clickers.

First, the Steering Committee receives the Strategy Selector Presentation.   In this presentation, each of the 25 strategies is presented in their ranked order as shown in Prioritized Strategy Report. The presentation also includes for each strategy the Enhanced Strategy Report score, the strengths of the strategy on which to build, the challenges which must be overcome and the results from the Voice of the Community Meeting about the desires and expectations of the general citizenry.

The Steering Committee members select, reject or place a "hold" on each strategy as it is presented.   The strategies that are "held" are then reconsidered until the final selection of a subset of the 25 strategies is made.
Second, the Steering Committee determines how to address the Quality-of-life Initiatives.  From the original list of possible initiatives, the Committee chooses to act on, write about or ignore the concern or issue.

Topics selected for action become initiatives and are added to the selected strategies for consideration in Session Six.

Session Six:  Assigning Essential Action Steps

The selected strategies and initiatives are then assigned to one or more person(s) and/or entity (ies).   Building Communities has developed and provides an on-line tool for submission of these action steps.  For each of the strategies, specific recommended Essential Action Steps are presented.   For the QoLIs, a more generic template is offered for submitting planned action steps.

The action steps outline the activity to be completed, the person(s) and/or entity(ies) responsible for  completing the activity, the date by  which the activity is to be completed,  from one to eight specific tasks necessary to complete the action step, the human/financial/technical resources needed for completion and the performance measure(s) to gauge success.

Carefully developed action steps comprise a significant portion of the final strategic plan and underscore the strong emphasis Building Communities places on the critical importance of implementation planning and follow-through.

Session Seven:  Community Elevator Speech

The final session returns to the heart of the matter: why do this strategic planning in the first place?   Steering Committee members are asked to reflect on why they care about their community and what they desire for the future.   During this time, the group explores and discusses what is unique about their community and what they expect as a result of conducting the strategic planning process.

The results of this last session will become the opening message in the plan document and is a unique statement about the heart of the community and what to expect in the plan—and during the years to come.

Marching Orders

The days immediately following Plan Week are critical.  Significant momentum develops during Plan Week.   Steering Committee members are very focused and engaged, and yet must return to their jobs, families and other responsibilities.   The time away from these responsibilities typically puts additional pressure on these otherwise busy people to "catch up" just when they also need to focus on completing their Essential Action Steps assignments.   For this reason, Steering Committee members receive their Marching Orders:

 

©2017 Building Communities, Inc.