Strategic planning is essential because it helps determine where an organization wants to go, how it will get where it wants to, and how it will evaluate progress toward the goal. The Village of Gurnee engaged Sikich, LLP to assist in a strategic planning effort. The strategic planning initiative integrates operational, financial, and long-term goals. By engaging in the development of a multi-year strategic plan, the Village has garnered the data and stakeholder input critical to establishing a solid foundation to guide decision making.
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Strategic Planning Initiative
The following is a timeline of the process:
May 15, 2007
-- Village Board Approves Issuing RFQ for Strategic Planning Assistance--
At the May 14, 2007 Committee of the Whole meeting the Village Board discussed the importance of developing a formalized strategic plan and granted permission for staff to issue a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for assistance in developing a plan for the Village of Gurnee.
May 15, 2007
-- Village of Gurnee Releases Bid for Strategic Planning Consulting Services --
On May 15, 2007 the Village sent a RFQ to a list of 19 consultants/firms with strategic planning experience, as well as posted the RFQ online via the Demandstar website. The Village received nine responses by the June 15, 2007 deadline. These nine proposals were reviewed by Village Staff. Of the nine, four were brought in for formal interviews.
August 20, 2007
-- Village Board Approves contract with Sikich --
At the August 20th Village Board meeting, staff recommends the Board enter an agreement with Sikich LLP to assist with the strategic planning process. The Board of Trustees agreed with staff’s recommendation and unanimously approved Ordinance. 2007 - 76 approving a strategic planning assistance proposal between the Village of Gurnee and Sikich LLP.
-- Village Modifies Initial Start Date--
Village Staff and Sikich agree to modify the original timeline and delay the start of the planning process until Spring 2008. This will allow the process, start to finish, to be completed in time for incorporation into the Fiscal Year 2009/2010 budget process.
March 3, 2008
-- Village Solicits Volunteer to Participate in Focus Groups --
In setting the overall direction of the community, the Village invited residents to participate in the Strategic Planning Initiative. The Village decided to host two public Focus Group sessions to collect information from community groups on what was important to them. The Village used its website, newsletter, and waterbills to communicate the need for participants. Other taxing bodies also assisted with communicating the upcoming focus group sessions. Residents interested in participating could call or email to reserve a spot in the process. A total of 127 residents responded and were invited to participate in one of the two sessions.
March 25, 2008
-- Project Sponsor Team Kick-Off --
Sikich met with a cross section of Village staff to discuss how the researchers were planning to complete the Village’s first comprehensive strategic plan. Village staff was impressed upon the need for their honest and earnest participation within the project. Miniature “Environmental Scan” sessions were held. This planning session explored the ways Sikich could effectively attract the most robust focus groups to the future sessions. In addition, both the Village and Sikich discussed their roles during the next steps in the strategic planning process.
April 5, 2008
-- Resident Focus Group #1 --
Approximately 60 residents gathered at Key Lime Cove on April 5th to participate in a dialogue about the current state and desired future of Gurnee. A specific facilitation method was employed by Sikich which sought to engage a large group of people with diverse perspectives in conversations through multiple “rounds” of small group dialogues. Two scenarios were posed, one asking residents to consider the present, and the other seeking both practical and innovative ideas for the future. Participants presented their ideas, debated, and reached consensus related to the scenarios while moving amongst different small group tables—resulting in the spread of key ideas throughout the large group.
April 25, 2008
-- Intergovernmental Focus Group --
The Village is just one of many governmental agencies which directly impact the future of Gurnee. In developing a comprehensive plan for the future, it is critical for the Village to understand the strategic direction and priorities of other agencies. The Intergovernmental Focus Group included 13 participants from the following organizations: Woodland District 50, Gurnee Grade District 56, Warren Township District 121, Gurnee Park District, Warren Newport Public Library, Warren Township, Lake County, and Representative Melissa Bean’s office. Sikich posed three questions to participants, who then brainstormed ideas, grouped like ideas, and reached consensus on the responses.
April 25, 2008
-- Youth Focus Group --
In outlining the process for the strategic planning initiative, Village leadership emphasized the importance of several special interest stakeholder groups, including Gurnee youth and businesses. To better understand what area youth like about Gurnee, what improvements they believe would be beneficial, and what might draw them back to reside in Gurnee as adults, Sikich hosted a dialogue with junior and senior students from Warren Township High School. In addition to answering several direct questions about the current state of the Village and its amenities for youth, the students also created a Mind Map of the trends they believe will most impact the area’s future.
May 3, 2008
-- Resident Focus Group #2 --
Approximately 40 residents gathered at Key Lime Cove on a May 3rd to participate in a second Resident Focus Group session about the current state and desired future of Gurnee. The same facilitation methods were employed—posing two scenarios to the residents in order to reflect on the present and generate a picture of the future. The scenarios were altered slightly for use in the second focus group, to provide more clarity for participants.
May 31, 2008
-- Village Board Focus Group --
The Mayor and Village Board were another critical source of input for the planning process. Since they are a unique stakeholder group—serving as both elected representatives of Gurnee and residents in their own right—the construct of this meeting was slightly different than the prior focus group sessions. The Board was engaged in activities around the mission statement and core values of the Village organization. While the Board did have an opportunity to discuss their vision for the future, this element of the plan is more directly influenced by the other focus groups.
June 6, 2008
-- Business Focus Group --
Approximately 20 business leaders, managers, and owners spanning a variety of business types—from retail, to banking, to food and industry—attended the Business Focus Group session on June 6th. In a format similar to that of the Intergovernmental Focus Group, Sikich sought to understand the business community’s ideal vision of Gurnee’s future, especially as related to their interactions with the Village organization. Participants had in-depth discussions surrounding three questions, to which the consensus was reached.
August 4, 2008
-- Project Sponsor Team --
Sikich met with the Project Sponsor Team (the internal Village team) to review the results of the public focus group sessions. At this meeting, the PST reviewed and commented on draft Vision and Missions statements, as well as Core Values. The group also reviewed goals that were generated from the public focus group sessions and worked to develop performance measures.
September 27, 2008
--Focus Group Participant Open House--
The purpose of the open house was to allow participants from the focus groups to view the progress to date, review the goals that evolved from the focus groups, and comment on how they would define success related to each goal.
The Open House featured visual displays with the vision statements and related goals listed. Attendants were provided with a feedback form and then asked to visit each display, rank the goals, and comment on how they would know the goal has been accomplished. The session had 30 participants.
September 30, 2008
--Departmental Training Session--
This training was a one on one session between Sikich and each of the Village’s five major departments. It included the PST member(s), respective department head, and one or two other key people from the department that will play an integral role in assisting with goal development, plan formulation, and performance monitoring. The group walked through the Action Planning process, discussed the Village-wide Strategic Goals, and reviewed some sample strategic planning documents from other communities. The session also stressed the importance of implementing the strategic plan in everyday operations.
October 2008 - January 2009
During the months of October 2008 - January 2009, Departments worked to develop strategies, performance measures, action plans and timelines for completion. Administration staff worked to bring all of this information together in an easy to understand format.