Nov 30 – Strategic Planning – The Issues

 Today we held our first major strategic planning session. The whole community gathered at 8:15 and spent the entire morning working through a process to identify the 3-4 key issues that we believe are most critical for New Melleray’s future. Dan Ebener facilitated our efforts. In short: we did a lectio divina exercise to get the ball rolling; we reflected upon the feedback we received from the focus groups and interviews conducted over the summer; we analyzed our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) based on our current situation; we asked “How can we …?” questions to categorize our responses to the SWOT analysis; and we identified three strategic issues that our strategic plan will address.

In detail:

Dan began the day with a reflection on emotional intimacy and his role as facilitator of our strategic planning. Our first activity was a collective lectio divina on the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Mt 25:1-13). We broke into four small groups and shared our personal reflections on this Scripture with our group members. After sharing within our groups Dan invited each group to share with the rest of the community. With the ice broken we dove into the heart of the strategic planning work.

In our small groups we shared our reflections upon the feedback from the focus groups and interviews that took place over the summer. Once more, our small group discussion was followed by a whole community sharing. This refresher then served as the jumping off point for the “SWOT Analysis.”

The SWOT Analysis required us to name the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that we face at this time. Dan explained that we should keep in mind that the strengths and weaknesses address things within our control while opportunities and threats pertain to things outside of our direct control. Each group was given an area to discuss and produced a list on a large poster board. After enough time had elapsed we passed our board along to another group and simultaneously received one to affirm and add upon. We continued this process until each group had reflected upon and contributed to all four areas. When the boards had gone around the room we received our original board once more and were given a final task of identifying two or three key themes based on the collective list.

With the SWOT Analysis completed, we were given time to walk around the room to view all four lists of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Dan then gave each of us a stack of post-it notes and invited us to reflect upon the findings of the SWOT. We were invited to use the individual post-its to write as many “How can we …?” questions as came to mind. As a final small group activity we shared our “How can we …?” questions and grouped them into 3-4 categories.

Finally, as a whole community, we discussed the questions that had been raised and the categories that they fell into. Dan helped us articulate these into 3 preliminary strategic issues for us to address in a strategic plan. In the coming weeks, Dan and two of the brothers will work on word-smithing the strategic issues and the “How can we …?” questions which will be the foundation for our next strategic planning session scheduled for Dec. 14th.