Headed in the right direction

Dwayne Kalynchuk, P.Eng.
APWA President

  Dwayne Kalynchuk and to and alliances. These are but a few of the issues the APWA Strategic Planning Committee grappled with as they worked on updating the Strategic Plan for the organization. However, before I reveal any of the details concerning these issues, I believe a little history of our Strategic Plan is in order.

Back in 1994 the APWA Board of Directors, led by Past President Ron Norris, unanimously adopted a Strategic Plan that reaffirmed long-held traditional organization values while launching APWA into an activist role in public works education and advocacy. The initial plan, which was conceived to govern APWA's management, program, educational and fiscal efforts for the following three to five years, was adopted at the association's annual Congress that September in Chicago.

Among the primary goals identified in the plan were:

  • Enhanced fiscal/management capability for the association.
  • A prominent profile for APWA in the federal, state/provincial and local arenas.
  • A strengthened information and education program.
  • A more comprehensive representation of the broad public works community and associated issues.
  • A renewed dedication to service in the public interest.

The next time the Board of Directors reviewed and updated the Strategic Plan was in 1998. A Strategic Planning Committee, appointed by then-President Robert Miller, was composed of a cross-section of leaders within APWA active at both the national and local levels. Input was solicited and received from all segments of the association membership over an 18-month period. Like the previous plan, the revision included a Mission Statement, long-range goals and several strategies to implement the goals.

Facilitated by a strategic planning consultant experienced with national not-for-profit associations, the committee's work was focused into two intensive weekend meetings in Chicago. Committee members brainstormed key external assumptions that impacted the public works profession and APWA, examined future trends, and listed areas where APWA might need to refine operations to successfully move into the future. The committee also discussed and developed an "envisioned future," one with a 10- to 30-year horizon. As before, the revised Strategic Plan was approved at Congress that September in Denver.

In January 2002 the Board made some minor changes to the strategies in the plan. The APWA Leadership and Management Committee also reviewed the plan and the Mission Statement, and suggested some changes to it at that time. They also suggested that we add a Vision Statement.

Which brings us to our current strategic planning process. Last fall the Board asked a Strategic Planning Committee, which I appointed, to review and update the plan. Led by President-Elect Tom Trice, the committee was tasked with looking at the Mission Statement specifically, as well as reviewing our three long-range goals and all of the strategies that fall beneath those goals.

The committee, which met in January 2004 in Kansas City, concentrated on five critical areas: education, advocacy and lobbying, membership, non-dues revenue sources, and partnerships and alliances. Along with reviewing the previous plan and analyzing data from the needs assessment and membership assessment surveys conducted last year, the committee discussed the issue of branding; discussed accomplishments, challenges, opportunities, and resource allocations; considered options for more effective partnering; and identified ways to better measure outcomes, always a difficult undertaking in an organization like ours.

On March 22 the Board of Directors approved the recommendations proposed by the Strategic Planning Committee. Based upon those recommendations, the Board directed that major revisions be undertaken for a new plan beginning in FY 2004-2005.

Overall, there is no doubt that we are headed in the right direction. We are going to maintain our current Mission Statement for the next year. Development of a Vision Statement will be considered during the next review. Other areas of the Strategic Plan that were modified and emphasized are as follows:

  • Add statements affirming the goal of APWA as the preferred choice of professional membership.
  • Modify our partnership policies to ensure that the benefits support the goals; simplify and streamline that process to establish and implement partnerships.
  • Create a plan for chapter and branch development.
  • Engage more members in advocacy and lobbying through the chapter level.
  • Emphasize media relations for greater awareness of public works.

Strategic planning is a dynamic process that requires constant attention and focus. In addition to planning, it requires a shift to "thinking" in a strategic way on a day-to-day basis. The plan sets the stage; it is up to all APWA members to see that what is played out on that stage is consistent with our mission.

A special thanks goes to the Strategic Planning Committee for their efforts in revising the plan, and to the Leadership and Management Committee for their input into the process.