An Assessment of the 2016 Strategic Planning Retreat

Assessment and strategic planning go together – we can’t assess when we don’t know what we’re aiming for. In that spirit, this post reports on the Library/Press 2nd Annual Strategic Action Planning Retreat, hosted by the SAWG16 working group.

The SAWG16 group includes Justin Hill, Lauri Fennell, Margaret Janz, Sara Jo Cohen, as well as myself and Steven Bell as co-chairs. The March 3 event, to which all staff were invited, drew a healthy number – 65 participants from 12 departments. The working group had three goals for the day:

  • Provide opportunities for staff members to get to know one another – not just in a social way but collaboratively –  working towards a library-wide goal
  • Learn about the ongoing strategic plan objectives for the current year – all that’s been accomplished so far
  • Begin brainstorming and defining potential objectives for the upcoming year

At the end of the day, we conducted an assessment of the Retreat itself. I will admit that even as someone who loves assessment I had some trepidation about soliciting feedback! I’ve organized enough conferences and meetings to know that for every one who loves the event there will be others with less positive things to say. But for the sake of continuous improvement we developed a quick evaluation form, providing the SAWG with excellent feedback and many ideas to consider for future events.

The Speed Idea Generation activity was the most popular. Participants had 5 minutes to brainstorm ideas about a question, like “What are ways we might foster more flexibility and support staff in developing new skills?” and “What new services could the library and press provide to help address the needs of faculty as they conduct and publish their research?”

We asked if participants found this to be worthwhile. Out of 38 responses, 100 % found the activity either very worthwhile or somewhat worthwhile (8). We thought it was fun, and it was gratifying to know that participants did too.

We asked how well the retreat met the outcomes stated above: getting to know other library staff members, learning about ongoing objectives, and thinking about future ones. Again, results were quite positive:

Response Getting to know other library staff members %
Very Successful 17 44.74%
Somewhat 17 44.74%
Neutral 4 10.53%
Grand Total 38 100.00%


Response Learning about last year’s strategic action objectives %
Very 15 39.47%
Somewhat 17 44.74%
Neutral 6 15.79%
Grand Total 38 100.00%


Response Helping me think about upcoming annual objectives %
Very 22 57.89%
Somewhat 12 31.58%
Neutral 4 10.53%
Grand Total 38 100.00%


The only way to improve is to listen to all the feedback, consider it with an open mind, and make adjustments for the future.  There was excellent, constructive feedback:

  • The lightning round, planned to update staff on progress towards our current objectives, should have provided more time for presenters and provided opportunity for all departments to be represented. And let’s get our microphone working.
  • We need to provide more food options at future staff retreats.
  • Some suggested shorter breaks – others felt the time spent was just right. Most of us enjoyed being in the Owl Cove, a few would have preferred to meet in the Paley building.
  • “I would love to see a problem solving section, where we can discuss problems staff see in the library in an open way, and brainstorm solutions”

And one of our favorite comments,

“I’ve been in many strategic planning meetings over the years and have never seen one end both early and burn-out free. Kudos to the team!”

All of this will be taken into account as future meetings for staff are planned. Thanks again to all who contributed.


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