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Most utilities recognize the importance of planning, yet few use strategic planning as the means to capture an organization's true potential. While incremental improvements are possible without a strategic plan, to take full advantage of opportunities for significant change, Columbus Water Works (CWW) embarked on a strategic journey. This paper describes the Georgia utility's journey and the results it has achieved by implementing a new approach to strategic planning.

CWW conducted a comprehensive, one-year strategic planning process, complemented by in-depth planning in several focused areas. The process was executed by the organization's leadership via a strategic planning group. Sub-team members contributed additional expertise and involvement across the organization. The results of this effort have been realized in the form of the utility's new vision and strategic direction. The strategies are the roadmap that will enable organizational teams to implement this strategic direction.

This presentation will outline the planning process used by CWW based on methodology developed in the AwwaRF project, “Strategic Planning and Organizational Development for Water Utilities.” The Scan, Plan, Do process includes several proven – and innovative – methods and tools to develop and implement a comprehensive set of long-term business strategies. In addition to extensive organizational input, Columbus Water Works reached out to its customers and stakeholders for input on important issues through in-person interviews and Madison Avenue-style interactive focus groups. Industry trends and business drivers were also evaluated.

By design, the planning process was intended to link the strategic direction to tactical operational plans and activities. The mission, vision, and values are the zenith of the strategic plan, providing overall guidance and direction. The strategic direction is spelled out in strategies, goals, and objectives. Each goal and objective is supported by tactics, actions, roles, and responsibilities with targeted measurable performance. Operational activities carry out the strategies. Teams are now executing each business strategy in the appropriate organizational units with cross-functional team members enabling organization-wide support. The success of every strategy is measurable with team leaders periodically reporting on progress to CWW's Strategic Planning Director. As the utility environment changes in the future, the teams will adjust their tactics and the scanning process will be re-evaluated annually for additional changes needed in the organization's overall strategic direction.

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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