Strategic Planning Process Underway at Fairfax County Public Library
Following a comprehensive Public Engagement Initiative Process, Fairfax County Public Library has begun developing a new strategic plan that will steer the library for the next 3–5 years. An internal committee of 59 library staff will review the data and recommendations gleaned from public and staff surveys, public meetings and focus groups to build a plan that will serve Fairfax County residents.
The committee has been tasked with continued consultation and communication with other library staff and community stakeholders including library users, the Library Board of Trustees, Friends groups, volunteers, county leadership, business leaders and others. Additional feedback from residents is likely to occur before the new strategic plan is finalized.
The strategic planning process is expected to take 6 to 9 months.
If members of the public would like to stay involved in the process, they are asked to reach out to library staff at the branch of their choice.
The strategic planning committee continues to build a foundation for a new strategic plan for the library. With the draft vision statement behind us, the committee began to refine values statements and to build consensus on which ones would be important for library staff to focus on for the next three to five years. Choosing values for the library would influence training, programing, messaging and more. Who are we now as an organization and who do we want to be? How do we get there? The committee has seven working values statements now and a subcommittee is refining these further. All the draft statements created to date will be shared with the Library Board of Trustees Ad Hoc Planning Committee for review when it meets on July 25. Staff were also encouraged to reach out to the secondary committee and library stakeholders with an update on the strategic planning process.
The committee has also posed a question to staff asking what is unique about Fairfax County Public Library compared to the other more than 119,000 libraries in the United States. Engagement from staff on this question has been robust.
Each meeting of the committee begins with an ice breaker exercise to allow the team – from different departments and branches within the library – to get to know each other and to encourage active engagement in discussion. After the brief warm up, team members are ready to start the cerebral work of strategic planning. By the end of the April meeting, two draft vision statements were agreed upon. These were shared with the library director, her leadership team and the Library Board of Trustees’ Ad Hoc Planning committee.
After drafting the two vision statements, the committee continued to discuss library values. What library values are core and what values are aspirational? If the vision statement sets “innovation” as a goal for example, what values are needed by all library employees to create an innovative environment? Prior to the meeting the committee has been engaging on the internal website and completed exercises based on a chapter on “Clarity” from the book The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business by Patrick Lencioni. Clarity, according to Lencioni, is one of the four disciplines of organizational health. In his book Lencioni says that the “seminal difference between successful companies and mediocre ones has little to do with what they know and how smart they are and more to do with how healthy they are.”
The Strategic Planning team continued the discussion about creating a vision statement for the library at its March meeting. Nine draft statements were presented to the group for small group discussions. After the small groups evaluated all the statement, the larger group reconvened for further discussion and clarification. A number of words stood out for the larger group as being meaningful for the library while many felt that a vision statement should be less specific and more aspirational. The team has been continuing the discussion on the internal web site between meetings. Team members are also charged with discussing the process and outcomes with secondary committee members that don't join the physical meetings each month but are welcome to join the online discussions and provide feedback to primary committee members. The team is also serving as liaisons to the library's stakeholder groups keeping them updated and seeking their feedback on the library from the external perspective.
The strategic planning committee had its kick-off meeting on January 31 and a follow up meeting on February 21. The committee meetings are being facilitated by an employee from the county's Organizational Development and Training Department. In addition to using the results from the 2016 Public Engagement Process while developing the strategic plan, the 18-member primary committee will ensure the contents align with other county documents including the Strategic Plan to Facilitate the Economic Success of Fairfax County and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors' Priorities and Vision.
During the second meeting the discussions and exercises revolved around finding consensus about the most important values for the library in order to lay the foundation for new vision and mission statements upon which the new strategic plan will be built.
What we need to do is always lean into the future; when the world
changes around you and when it changes against you—what used to be a
tail wind is now a head wind—you have to lean into that and figure
out what to do because complaining isn't a strategy.
—Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon