What is the best way to update a strategic plan that is still working well?

In 2017, I facilitated the Thurston Regional Planning Council’s strategic retreat. At that time, the new executive director felt a strong need for creating the organization’s first “real” strategic plan. Read about that here. In 2019, it was time to refresh the Planning Council’s strategic plan. The trick question was: how? The plan was working well, and the priorities still seemed to be appropriate. How could the Council use their time at the strategic retreat in the most productive way possible?


Thurston Regional Planning Council: TRPC is a council of governments comprising decision-makers from 21 jurisdictions in Thurston County, WA. The Council and its staff are chartered to foster the region’s livability through planning in information sharing on topics such as transportation, growth management, and environmental quality. Visit TRPC.


  • Studied background information supplied by the TRPC, including the 2017 strategic plan.
  • Worked closely with a planning team, consisting of the Executive Director, a TRPC staff person, and 3 Council members.
  • Interviewed 15 of the Council members to learn about their perspective on the most important issues that should be discussed at the retreat. Because the answers were so varied in understanding the issues, how the issues are interlinked, and what the TRPC’s appropriate roles should be, I recommended that the retreat could be used to forge a more unified understanding of these things. This recommendation was accepted as the core of the retreat, from which the group could discover new issues that the strategic plan should address.
  • Facilitated the day of the retreat, guiding the group through the “big picture” exercise and subsequent strategy discussions.
  • Prepared a meeting report conveying the results of the retreat.


  • Enjoyment and discovery in the process of building the “big picture” of interlinked issues within Thurston County
  • A surprising insight by the group that on overlooked issue should be elevated in importance and brought into the strategic plan.
  • Strong direction given to TRPC staff about how to update the strategic plan.