Strategic planning has traditionally been viewed as setting long-term direction based on wellfounded predictions, analysis of options, and key decisions about the future of an organization. Conversely, some water utilities have viewed themselves as victims of circumstance and felt that
strategic planning was futile. Other utilities, while embracing strategic planning concepts, have attempted to embark on strategies without sufficient external input, internal participation and alignment, adequate commitment of resources, or flexibility in plan execution. Utilities today
must adapt quickly to complex changes in workforce, infrastructure, technology, and regulations, as well as outside factors of the economy, security issues, and societal trends. Linear, cause-and-effect strategic planning does not work well in today's world. Given these uncertainties,
how can utilities develop meaningful and useful strategic plans? Without a plan, most utilities will be caught up in the crisis of the day. So how can a plan be developed and carried out to address the real strategic issues? Faced with these challenges, a group of 18 leading
water and wastewater utilities throughout North America, with additional international utility partners, have developed new ways of strategic planning. This project, called “Strategic Planning and Organizational Development for Water Utilities,” sponsored by AwwaRF and conducted
by EMA, has created a dynamic and flexible strategic planning framework. This new framework, coupled with many of these utilities’ experiences in strategic planning, is the subject of this paper.
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