Lessons learned from the strategic plan breakout sessions

Strategic plan puzzle pieceWe’ve had a few months to think about what was presented at the Leadership Development Conference in October. At the conference, managers, supervisors, and other informal leaders at the Iowa DOT came together for a day-long event focused on developing their leadership skills.

As part of the breakout sessions, small groups of leaders gathered to identify barriers and then brainstorm solutions in the areas of leadership, strategic planning, performance measurement, culture, and communication. 

While nearly 600 DOTers attended the sessions, it is up to each of us to make improvements that help the Iowa DOT become smarter, simpler, and customer driven. This is the second in a series of blog posts about the small group discussions.

Today’s topic is the strategic plan.

The Iowa DOT has pursued many different approaches to a strategic plan over the years. In the view of many at the DOT past plans resulted in a document that was put on a shelf and seldom referenced by most employees.

Key initiativesFive distinct initiatives were identified: performance management, data integration, portfolio and project management, organization communication, and workforce and knowledge management.  To date, the strategic plan website lists the performance management task as 100 percent completed.

Everyone will be affected in some way by the changes the plan brings about. But, because the strategic plan focuses on change, not everyone or every area of the Iowa DOT will be directly involved in the work of the strategic plan. The main issue identified in the small group sessions related to the strategic plan was the lack of connection to the plan. That drove the discussion of the leadership development conference groups that looked at this topic area.

The group specifically looked at:

  • What aspects of the plan need further explanation?
  • What issues/barriers are faced when using this strategic planning approach?
  • What issues/barriers are faced in communicating this strategic planning approach?

For solutions, the group had dozens of ideas. The main points were:

  • Explain the plan in simple language in staff meetings or other gatherings with the correct players at the table.
  • Assure individuals are aware of their role.
  • Describe difference between a performance plan and the strategic plan and the ties between the two.

The need to keep momentum going while implementing one initiative at a time was also discussed. The group concluded communication is one key to keeping momentum for the plan, including these possible solutions:  

  • E-mail notifications.
  • Weekly newsletter (paper copy available); face-to-face meetings.

Deanna Maifield, with the Office of Design, was a part of the group. She said, “For me, I don’t think people know about or connect to the plan. They don’t see how they fit into the bigger picture. We all make decisions in our daily work that could impact the whole. If we don’t know where the agency is going, how do we know if we’re making the correct decisions for the department?”

Communication is going to be a key component to connecting people and the plan. Maifield said, “Employees need to understand that while they might not be directly involved with the plan, the work we all do plays a part. We all need to take the initiative to learn how what we do benefits the whole.”

Living out our core values is the main way every employee can contribute to improving our work environment and the products and services we provide to our customers. 


The next post in this series will cover the culture session.

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