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Utilities today operate in an uncertain world. Change is constant meaning that water and wastewater utilities must adapt quickly to complex shifts in workforce, infrastructure, technology, and regulations, as well as external factors such as the economy, security issues, and societal trends. The linear, cause-and-effect style of strategic planning utilized in prior eras does not work well in today's environment. Given these uncertainties, how can utilities develop meaningful, useful strategic plans?

Faced with these challenges, a group of 18 leading international utilities has developed new methods of strategic planning. The project was sponsored by AwwaRF and conducted by EMA. The result is a dynamic, flexible new strategic planning framework and the sharing of experience among utilities.

Every utility is unique in the internal and external elements that influence its strategic direction. The planning environment is affected by how much control a utility exerts on its environment as well as the relative certainty of future events. The project approach was conducted using “on the ground” research and by direct engagement of national and international utilities. Through a five-step process, “best practices” in strategic planning were identified, applied to a utility environment, then tested and validated with a group of utility participants. Each step was built on the previous step, along with secondary and primary research, and application of theory.

A number of criteria emerged from the research as keys to successful strategic planning. This presentation will outline each of these criteria in detail to illustrate how the planning framework meets the utilities' needs. The SPD (Scan, Plan, Do) Strategic Planning Framework will be described in detail. Several key elements that surround the process are essential for successful planning and day-to-day functioning of the organization. This paper will explore why these steps need to be in place for successful strategic planning to occur.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2005-01-01

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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