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Santa Cruz County takes first step toward a strategic plan

Posted by Yijy8kNUMO on September 20, 2017

All organizations know what they do. Many know how they do it. But few know why. Or at least that’s what author and consultant Simon Sinek says in a TED Talk screened at Tuesday’s monthly meeting of the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors.

To find its ‘why,’ Santa Cruz County is embarking on a strategic planning process that aims to distill the priorities of its constituents and staff for the next six years to find the county a north star by which to prioritize use of limited resources — something that county leaders have called overdue.

The City of Santa Cruz has its own strategic plan, as does Watsonville and counties including Marin and Santa Barbara, But while some county agencies have their own strategic plans, including Health and Human Services and the Probation Department, Tuesday’s meeting represented the county’s first step toward creating a comprehensive plan that it is calling Vision Santa Cruz County.

Next, staffers are tasked with developing a framework and time line for the plan by Oct. 17 before soliciting input from the community. And the county hopes to have the plan finalized by the end of the fiscal year in June 2018.

“This is really the start of something big,” 5th District Supervisor Bruce McPherson said at Tuesday’s board meeting.

And 2nd District Supervisor Zach Friend called the move a “fundamental shift” that he said would improve not only county services but also staff morale.

In traveling across the state and observing the workings of other county governments, Friend said he noticed a trend. “Those that seemed to be working the best had strategic plans,” he said.

Only 4th District Supervisor Greg Caput expressed mild reservations about the process, saying he viewed the plan as an opportunity to make adjustments to county policy rather than a full revamp.

“I don’t think we’re broken,” Caput said. “And if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

The county’s effort to plot its own north star follows the success of strategic plans in other municipalities. Watsonville, for example, created a strategic plan for the city in the late 1990s after a particularly rough patch in city history. The fallout from the Loma Prieta earthquake, combined with thousands of canning jobs lost as companies relocated to Mexico after NAFTA opened borders, sent unemployment rates skyrocketing to more than 20 percent, according to former Watsonville city manager Carlos Palacios.

Palacios, who now serves as county administrative official, credited the strategic plan as a key driver in building community consensus around using redevelopment funds to finance the Watsonville Cabrillo College campus.

“When we partnered with Cabrillo to use redevelopment to build that site there was not a question in the community or council about why we were doing that, because it was in our strategic plan,” Palacios said. “Everybody knew.”

Now, he said, with 1,500 students attending the campus daily, “it looks like the most brilliant thing we did with our redevelopment money.”

Strategic planning is far from a new concept. It dates back at least as far as a policy model created by Harvard Business School’s in the 1920s, which created an early framework for determining organizational priorities.

But it is only more recently that the concept migrated from private industry to government — pioneered by Oregon and Texas — where the concept appears to be quickly gaining momentum as a management tactic and process through which to take the pulse of the community.

For updates and information about the plan, and to subscribe to a newsletter, visit


Tuesday: County supervisors held study session on strategic plan.

Oct. 17: Staff tasked with delivering plan’s framework, timeline.

October to June: Community input sought, more study sessions held.

June 30: Plan finalized and adopted.

Source: Santa Cruz County

Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel, September 19, 2017 4:28pm

Author: Nicholas Ibarra

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