Strategic Planning and Team Building

 by Tanya Zwahlen

We are a small firm, with just four people (for now), so we work as a team on just about everything. For example, we all contribute to:

  • Proofreading and quality control
  • Marketing
  • Stakeholder database management
  • Public Meeting preparation
  • Watering the plants*

Start, Stop, Keep

Last April, we met to discuss our strategic plan and troubleshoot problems. I have been exposed to some new ideas in my entrepreneurs’ group, and we experimented with an exercise to help us improve. We call it start/stop/keep. Each person suggested:

  1. One thing we should start doing
  2. One thing we should stop doing
  3. One thing we should keep doing


We’ve done this exercise three times since April, and the outcomes have been so interesting. In response to a concern about communication, we started using Slack. Now everyone can track conversations in one place by project. We’ve all agreed to stop coming into the office sick. Some of us may or may not be germaphobes. And besides, with laptops, it’s easy to work from home.

Start/stop/keep has been like group therapy for our business. It was hard to be direct and honest at first, but we all felt relieved once we shared what was on our minds. Today we are more apt to speak up right away about issues. It’s good.

Rochester should…

I think this method would work well for any strategic discussion – a non-profit management team, a neighborhood organization, a business association, a family, even a city. For example, in my opinion, the City of Rochester should:

  1. Keep investing in riverfront access, so residents and visitors can get closer to the Genesee River, its three waterfalls, and the Erie Canal.
  2. Start communicating regularly with residents, investors, and business owners. I think we should become the first city in the nation to communicate with its citizens by text quarterly. We could send two or three questions to gauge people’s opinions about upcoming initiatives and decisions. The mayor and City Council could use this input as they make decisions for the future of the city.
  3. Stop busing children all over the city and reinvest in the neighborhood school model. The money spent on busing could be used for reading, enrichment, or the arts.

* The truth. Andre waters the plants and the rest of us talk about how the plants look sad and wonder out loud if they will die.

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