Strategic planning seminar highlights change
Guest facilitators Traci Holt and Susan Bryner were invited by the Chester Fire Department and Chester Public Utilities District on Dec. 14 to present a talk on organizational development and effective strategic planning.
CPUD board chair Wes Scott introduced the women to the assembly of fire and public utility personnel inside the meeting room that both groups share at the CPUD building in Chester.
Holt and Bryner have substantive backgrounds in business and education that provide the kinds of experiences that both women call upon in their seminars to improve business culture within public service organizations.
“I’m passionate about the health and vitality of the Almanor and Chester community,” Holt said. “As a prior psychologist and college educator, I was involved in the research and theory of personality. And that’s the kind of experience I’m bringing here today.”
The seminar included interactions between participants, with Bryner and Holt displaying nine of the beloved Winnie the Pooh characters on a whiteboard, and defining each of the character’s personalities.
“These characters — generally speaking — represent most of the personality traits that psychologists have identified in their research,” Holt said.
Participants then stood up in a circle and one by one announced which of the characters they most identified with: Winnie the Pooh, open, thoughtful and cheerful; while others in attendance might happen to choose Christopher Robin, diplomatic, compassionate and helpful; or Tigger, energetic, adventurous and resourceful, and so on.
“These various traits dictate how one processes and acts or reacts to new information,” said Holt.
This furthered the discussion on how the diversity of personalities in an organization and the rules that govern operations create the overall organization’s culture.
Holt went on to talk about the written results that had been previously submitted by those in attendance to see which topics or issues were most important to them.
Topics included changes in staff, accountability, pay issues, what it takes to run the district, being proactive versus reactive, increasing morale, staff burnout, the working environment, controlling and cutting expenses, interpersonal communication and the willingness to listen, open-door policies, increasing revenue, working with other organizations like PG&E, and improving public image to name a few.
“Based on what you’ve submitted,” Holt continued, “we’re going to set some goals and implement action plans we can take” to improve employee interactions, both with the public “as well as within your respective organizations.”
Part of that is “consensus building,” Holt noted, and “asking where the company or individual wants to be in the years ahead.”
She also mentioned updating one’s personal mission, and creating a vision regarding future changes, adding that people need to feel safe to express themselves from the standpoint of improving an organization’s success.
“Speak from the heart about what you’re thinking and feeling” in a constructive way, she said. And also prepare for and “listen for the future to emerge,” as you plan for change.
“Part of strategic planning is asking what your strengths are and what are your weaknesses,” she said. “When you’re trying to decide where you’ll be in five years, I strongly believe you have to have a strong foundation.”
Effective change means laying the right groundwork by having a “courageous conversation” with everyone, and working together to update information and prioritize goals.
“When every person has a say-so, we feel we have a buy-in and are contributing to where we want the organization to go moving forward,” said Holt.
She said change requires “reflecting on where you’ve been, where you are now, and where you want to be.”
Holt acknowledged that when “you’re working in a regulatory environment, change is difficult, but always a constant.”
There was also talk about making sure that “we don’t have a hide-to-survive mentality; that we’re always heads-up to thrive,” she said. “Challenges are opportunities,” and provide occasions to “celebrate our successes.”
The reality is that “dedication to your organization means getting the job done. … That’s not something you can teach somebody; that’s one of those things that you have or don’t have.”
Requests for feedback and an open dialogue throughout the morning included some moments of laughter, after a gentle wisecrack or spontaneous quip from an audience member kept the mood playful during the four-hour seminar.
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Traci Holt, right, discusses the various strengths and weaknesses that encompass different organizations, and how to plan for and initiate change. Holt and her co-facilitator at the event, Susan Bryner, have backgrounds in business and education that they call upon in seminars to improve business culture and strategic planning.
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A number of Winnie the Pooh characters on a whiteboard are on display, with Traci Holt and Susan Bryner defining each of the character’s personalities. Participants stood up and playfully announced which of the characters they most identified with at the Dec. 14 seminar inside the meeting room at the CPUD building in Chester.