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Animal Care and Management at the National Zoo: Final Report 2 Strategic Planning CHARACTERISTICS OF AN EFFECTIVE STRATEGIC PLAN Strategic planning is critical to the success of any organization–large or small, public or private, for-profit or nonprofit. Strategic planning is a process whereby an organization charts its future; it may be initiated in response to various internal stimuli (such as a change in leadership or high turnover) or external stimuli (such as competition or changing regulations) (Steiner et al., 1994). The strategic-planning process provides an opportunity for an organization to clarify its fundamental mission or purpose. The mission can then be communicated to employees to create a shared understanding of what the organization is trying to accomplish. Strategic planning also involves setting short-term and long-term goals and generating a detailed operational plan that outlines how the goals will be attained. Clear goals and a concrete operational plan are essential for ensuring successful implementation of the strategic plan. There are many models of strategic planning for nonprofit, for-profit, and government organizations (Bryson, 1988; Crittenden and Crittenden, 1997; Godet, 2000; Gummer, 1997; McNamara, 2003). Most involve six basic steps: assessing the current state of an organization (where we are now); identifying human, physical, and capital resources that are available to the organization (what we have to work with); creating a vision or deciding how the organization should be positioned in the future (where we want to be); formulating a detailed plan for achieving the vision (how will we get there); monitoring and evaluating progress (the extent to which we have implemented the strategic plan and achieved our goals); and revising and updating the strategic plan (to keep the strategic plan appropriate). The act of creating a strategic plan facilitates organizational performance through several mechanisms. It forces an organization to take stock of its internal resources and capabilities, as well as the larger environment in which it is operating (Barry, 1986), a process known as situational analysis. An organization can use the resulting information to determine how to position itself in the future; thus, an organization’s strategy should be designed to enable it to leverage its strengths and opportunities and to minimize or neutralize its weaknesses and threats (Gibbis et al., 2001). The strategic plan, when adequately communicated to employees, provides a road map for organizational success. The strategic-planning process identifies short-term and long-term goals and specifies, in detail, how and when the goals will be achieved; this information can guide individual, unit, and organizational actions and decision-making and can provide objective, quantifiable indicators by which to judge progress and success (McNamara, 2003). Strategic planning can be performed by an internal facilitator or an external consultant. In many cases, the use of an external consultant is preferable. Nonprofit organizations that use a formal approach to strategic planning may achieve higher levels of performance than those with more informal procedures (Siciliano, 1997). An external consultant is less likely to hold preconceived ideas about the organization and can offer a fresh perspective on the organization’s issues and ideas. An external consultant can also help to ensure that the organization develops all parts of its strategic plan and can offer an independent evaluation of whether the plan is being implemented properly and whether progress is being made. Whether the strategic-planning process is overseen by an internal facilitator or an external consultant, it is critical to involve a broad array of stakeholders. The planning team should include top management so that employees see management buying-into the process (McNamara, 2003). Staff at various levels should also be part of the process. It is impossible to involve every employee on the planning team, but an effort should be made to collect information and reactions from as many employees as possible; this will not only ensure that all important issues are considered but also help to garner employee buy-in. Stakeholders (such as funders, trade association, potential collaborators, vendors and suppliers, customers, and volunteers) should also be included to ensure that those served by the organization have a voice in the process.(Crittenden and Crittenden, 1997). A strategic plan should be implemented, evaluated, and periodically updated if it is to be valuable to the organization. In fact, failure to follow through on a strategic plan and show clear evidence of progress is likely to demoralize and frustrate employees who have contributed to the process. The strategic plan must contain clear goals and objectives that can be achieved with measurable results (Bonoma and Clark, 1990). Each of the major goals outlined in the strategic plan should be accompanied by an operational plan. Essentially, an operational plan details a
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Animal Care and Management at the National Zoo: Final Report series of important steps that should be taken to achieve a major goal (Crittenden and Crittenden, 1997). For example, a major goal might be to repair necessary physical facilities, and the operational plan might prioritize the order of repairs, specify a schedule for completing the repairs, and identify additional funding and human resources that are needed.. The strategic-planning process often involves setting goals for the next 5 years. Actions that the organization plans to take to achieve those goals in the short term (1-2 years) should be described in substantial detail in the operational plan. Those actions should have a detailed timeline and clear delineation of responsibility. The short-term elements of an operational plan should also be accompanied by specific evaluation criteria to assess effectiveness, efficiency, and cost. For example, the Perth (Australia) Zoo measures annual performance by effectiveness and efficiency indicators in three categories (Perth Zoo, 2003): wildlife conservation, customer awareness of conservation, and customer service. Other zoos have used a variety of objective, performance, and activity measures (City of Philadelphia, 1997; Metro, 2000; Auckland Regional Council, 2003; City of Topeka, 2003; Woodland Park Zoological Society, 2003). Actions that the organization plans to take in the long term (2-5 years), need not be as detailed initially but should be updated as time progresses. It is important to recognize that clear, objective goals and a detailed operational plan are essential if the strategic plan is to serve as the impetus for organizational change. Not much has been written specifically on strategic planning in contemporary zoos, but there is little reason to expect the process to differ substantially from that in other contexts. For example, the elements listed below have been cited as important in the strategic-planning process for a zoo, and they were all cited earlier as key components of existing strategic-planning models (adapted from Pensacola Junior College, 2004): Defining the mission. Describing its organization. Outlining its vision for the future. Detailing primary strategies to address the main issues. Setting goals and implementation strategies. Stating specific expected results in support of the goals. Stating performance measures. Obviously, however, the strategic planning process in zoos will need to focus on the specific challenges and issues that zoos face. For example, contemporary zoos are guided by five basic principles that should be considered in a strategic plan: conservation, education, science (research), animal welfare, and entertainment (Maple, 2003). In some cases, conservation goals may be inconsistent with animal-welfare concerns when captive breeding programs produce surplus animals that are not needed for exhibition or breeding (Cohn, 1992). Finally, captive animals often live longer (owing to improved medical care, animal husbandry, facilities, and social grouping), and consideration must be given to the care and management of geriatric animals (Maple, 2003). The American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) requires a strategic plan to be in place in all accredited institutions. However, the zoo has operated without a strategic plan or its equivalent for the last 10 years. That deficiency was stressed in the 1992 accreditation report by AZA, but Smithsonian leadership did not promote the initiation of such a plan until recently. Accordingly, the zoo had functioned for many years without a firm sense of direction. The lack of purpose probably contributed to the decline in the animal collection and facilities during the 1990s. CURRENT STATE OF STRATEGIC PLANNING AT THE NATIONAL ZOO The final version of the strategic plan was provided to committee on May 28, 2004. It is a relatively short but ambitious document, written in the present tense and active voice. The elements of the plan are a mission statement, a description of core values of the zoo, a 10-year vision statement, 1-year and 5-year goals for achieving the mission and 10-year vision, and six strategies for achieving the goals. The 1- and 5-year goals are in seven goal categories similar to those of the strategic planning process of other zoos: Animal management.
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Animal Care and Management at the National Zoo: Final Report Science. Education. Public impact. Financial strength. Staff and organization. Facilities. The 1-year and 5-year goals in each category are accompanied by performance measures. The strategic-planning process is also described in some detail in a series of appendixes. The committee evaluated the zoo’s strategic plan on the basis of the literature describing an effective strategic-planning process, outlined in the previous section. The evaluation included assessment of the strategic planning process, the situational analysis, the statement of clear goals that can be achieved with measurable results, and the operational plan detailing actions for attaining each of the major goals identified in the strategic plan. These elements were the essentials of an effective strategic plan. Strategic Planning Process Strategic planning for the zoo began in late 2003 as part of a Smithsonian-wide process. An outside consultant was recruited to work with the senior management team in assembling a strategic-planning team that represented the entire zoo organization and to coordinate and facilitate the strategic-planning process. The zoo’s strategic-planning team consisted of 12 persons nominated by the zoo staff and included voluntary representation from both the CRC and the Rock Creek Park staff. The strategic-planning team was responsible for conducting site visits, collecting stakeholder input and feedback, and writing the strategic plan. The strategic-planning team gathered extensive input from zoo staff and stakeholders. Staff had many opportunities to provide input through 4 different sessions held in November 2003, Staff was also offered the opportunity to provide feedback on drafts of the strategic plan through 12 different sessions held in February, March, and April, 2004. These sessions were facilitated using a system of wireless computers so staff could input their ideas anonymously and read all the input as it was generated. External stakeholders—including the US Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, AZA, Congress, and the general public—also had opportunities to provide input through 5 different stakeholder sessions in February 2004, although these entities have no direct representation on the strategic-planning team. After the strategic-planning team completed each section of the strategic plan, the strategic-planning team and the senior management team held a working session to finalize the plan. Situational Analysis In its introduction, the strategic plan does note some internal weakness at the zoo, namely that facilities are old, financial investment has been deemed insufficient for several decades, and operating budgets are lean, resulting in a decline in the numbers of animals and in the lack of science and conservation activities reflected in the exhibits. However, these statements are a cursory examination of the operational environment and do not reflect that the zoo performed an in-depth situational analysis of its current internal and external operating environments. A clear understanding of the resources available to the zoo and the environment in which it operates would have provided a solid foundation upon which to build a strategic plan. The failure of the zoo to engage in a critical examination of its operations, its unique funding structure, and its position within the DC metropolitan area and the zoo community undermines the strategic-planning committee’s efforts to develop a document that addresses the zoo’s current and future situation. Further, the strategic plan failed to incorporate the few weaknesses that were noted in the introduction. For example, the strategic plan notes that many of the zoo’s facilities are declining, but the strategic plan does not analyze the current renovation plan and compare it to the animal collection plan to determine if the declining
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Animal Care and Management at the National Zoo: Final Report facilities, and particularly facilities that are not scheduled for renovation for several years, can adequately house the current animal collection or the influx of animals that is planned over the next several years. Mission, Long-Term Vision, and Core Values The zoo’s current mission statement is as follows (NZP, Strategic Plan, May 28, 2004): We are the nation’s zoo, providing leadership in conservation science. We connect people with wildlife through exceptional animal exhibits, explore solutions through science-based programs, build partnerships worldwide, and share our discoveries. We educate and inspire diverse communities to celebrate, study, and protect animals and their habitats. The strategic plan is appropriately based on the five basic principles to which contemporary zoos are dedicated: conservation, education, science in the form of research, entertainment, and animal welfare (Maple, 2003). The core values, outlined in the strategic plan, included discussion of unity, conservation, staff, communication, excellence, and fun at the zoo. Those elements—a common vision, environmentally responsible practices, an excellent staff, effective communication, professional excellence, and a dedication to making the zoo fun to visit, are commendable, but presumably they are aspirations that all well-run zoos must espouse. The 10-year vision, which articulates long-term goals for achieving the mission of the zoo, is as follows: As visitors enter our urban oasis, they will be inspired by state-of-the-art, innovative animal exhibits that reflect our commitment to animal care, science, and public engagement. Exhibits will connect visitors with the natural world and immerse them in our real-life stories of wildlife conservation. Our outstanding volunteer, education, and international outreach programs will enable people to learn more and take a personal role in the future of wildlife. Our professional internships and training programs will be sought-after by highly motivated individuals, locally and internationally. Our apprentice programs will attract people from diverse backgrounds to learn the professions of a modern zoo. The National Zoo’s facility in Front Royal, Virginia will be fully utilized as a center of excellence in science-based conservation. We will be renowned for developing leaders in the fields of zoo management, veterinary care, conservation science, and education. The National Zoo will be known for its long-term commitment to capacity building and training. We will share science-based tools and information, empowering local communities to conserve habitats and animals. Our staff will be respected as leaders and mentors in zoo and conservation sciences nationally and internationally. The 10-year vision, which visualizes the Rock Creek Park site as an urban oasis and the Front Royal site as a national center of excellence in science-based conservation, appears to be achievable if the problems laid out in the committee’s interim report, this final report, and in recent AZA evaluations (2003a, 2004) are properly addressed. 1-Year and 5-Year Goals The strategic plan lists a series of goals related to improvement in the categories of animal management, science, education, public impact, financial strength, staff and organization, and facilities. Of those, only animal management, staff and organization, and facilities come within the scope of the committee’s charge, although all the |goal categories will contribute to whether the zoo realizes its vision.
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Animal Care and Management at the National Zoo: Final Report Animal Management The first of the 1-year goals for animal management is to prepare the zoo’s existing animal data for transitioning to the new Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS), as a first step in moving to a comprehensive, integrated electronic recordkeeping system (the first 5-year goal). This will be an important step for the zoo, but progress will depend on how soon the ZIMS is available. The zoo has contributed considerable resources to the development of the ZIMS software and is expected to take full advantage of its investment. ZIMS is slated for initial release in 2006 (ZIMS, 2004). A second 1-year goal is to clarify the roles, responsibilities, and decision-making processes related to animal care and management. If implemented properly, this change will reduce the chances of arbitrary decisions that threaten the welfare of the animals. The final 1-year goal is to establish a collection and exhibit-planning process that will guide decisions on species acquisitions and animal relocations. The process has already been put into play with respect to the Asia Trail Project: a team of scientists, educators, and curatorial staff have collaborated to develop a matrix of species qualities—including availability, public appeal, status in the wild, taxonomic position, and scientific interest—to guide acquisitions for the exhibit. It is not apparent that a matrix-based approach will direct all acquisitions in the future or that this approach was used to develop the 2004 National Zoo animal-collection plan. The first two of the 5-year goals for animal management are extensions of 1-year goals. One is to have a comprehensive recordkeeping system in place and the second is to integrate the main missions of the zoo around the animal collection. The third 5-year goal is to continue to upgrade and improve the quality of the exhibits. The fourth and fifth 5-year goals are related to staff development and training. The zoo will expand the training available to staff to improve expertise, encourage innovation, and improve management practices. The opportunities for residency and internship training will also be expanded. The achievement of those five goals will do much to correct problems in animal management, recordkeeping, communication, and training noted by the committee in this report and the interim report. Together they provide a road map for improvement. The sixth 5-year goal relates to animal management and may do much to provide the zoo with a distinctive role in the zoo community. The goal states the zoo will capitalize on the Front Royal land and facilities to expand the zoo’s collaboration in animal management and conservation with other organizations. Full use of the CRC’s facility and human resources can provide a scientific resource for zoos nationwide. The complete scientific priorities for the zoo are covered in goal category 2 of the strategic plan. This topic is out of the purview of the committee, but it is worth noting that this goal, if it is achieved, will align the mission of the CRC more closely with zoo and Smithsonian priorities. Staff and Coordination Within 1 year, the staff will be expected to be familiar with the core values of the zoo and be prepared to implement them. Human-resources practices are to be clearer and more efficient and incorporate best and most up-to-date practices. The 5-year goals expand on the 1-year goals. Managers will be expected to be effective leaders, and the core values will be practiced by the entire staff. All staff will have the opportunity to grow in their positions and to receive the training needed to achieve such professional growth. Administrative procedures will become more efficient and effective. Staff diversity will be increased by expanding recruitment practices nationwide, and in the local community. Staff zoowide will participate in recruitment for new positions. The final goal in relation to staff and organization is to align organizational structures and management systems and processes in such a way that staff are encouraged and presumably able to work cooperatively across departments. Those goals are commendable and, if achieved, will do much to break down the barriers and operational culture differences that operate to isolate departments from each other. Facilities The strategic plan contains no 1-year goals for the facilities of the zoo. Rather, a series of 5-year goals is presented. First, “our master plan guides development of renewed facilities at Rock Creek and Front Royal. The plan is based on sound land use practices, addresses our infrastructure needs, and allows for flexibility in future growth.” The strategic plan defines the master plan as the physical expression of the strategic plan; the process and document that describes future development of zoo land, facilities, and infrastructure (NZP, Strategic Plan, May 28, 2004).
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Animal Care and Management at the National Zoo: Final Report However, the strategic plan itself should describe the zoo’s vision for future land development and priorities for facility and infrastructure development and renewal, not propose to develop this vision. The other 5-year goals outlined in the facilities section are appropriate to the mission and vision of the zoo and, if implemented in the proposed 5-year span, will greatly improve the appeal and function of the zoo facilities. General Comments When evaluating the 1-year and 5-year goals, which should detail the intermediate goals toward achieving the mission and 10-year goals of the strategic plan, the committee generally found these goals to be appropriate. But they often lack detail. For example, one of the 5-year goals in the category of animal management is, “Our animal collection is a dynamic expression of our conservation, science, animal management, and education priorities.” That goal lacks any clear objective that can be achieved with measurable results. Does it imply that the zoo will focus its animal collection on wildlife species that are in danger of extinction? What are the animal-management priorities? Strategies to Attain the Strategic Plan Goals Following the statement of the 1-year and 5-year goals, the strategic plan has a section entitled “Strategies”. The strategies are “the basic approach to achieving the National Zoo’s goals” – in essence an operational plan. Each of the major goals categories should have a corresponding section in the operational plan that details the specific actions that must be taken to achieve the 1- and 5- year goals. The “Strategies” section of the zoo’s strategic plan is entirely composed of 6 strategies (NZP, Strategic Plan, May 28, 2004): Strategy #1: Master Planning. Develop and complete a visionary master plan that capitalizes on the uniqueness of the National Zoo’s land and locations, and provides flexibility for future programs and exhibits. It is the physical expression of the strategic plan. Strategy #2: Organizational Design. Examine and adjust as necessary the zoo’s organizational design to align its diverse functions, improve coordination, minimize redundancy, and enhance collaboration. Clearly articulate roles and responsibilities and establish decision-making authority across units. Strategy #3: Integrated Financial Planning. Develop a consolidated financial planning process for the zoo. Use this process to manage our federal and non-federal funds and address financial needs. Strategy #4: Leadership and Management. Assess and enhance the leadership and management skills of zoo leaders, managers, and supervisors to increase their effectiveness. Strategy #5: Core Values. Immediately implement a program that will promote the zoo-wide practice of core values. Strategy #6: Visibility. Implement a comprehensive plan to maximize visibility of the zoo’s successes and expertise to local, national, and international audiences. The “Strategies” section lacks any specifics for attaining the 1-year and 5-year goals pertaining to animal management, staff and organization, and facilities sections. The strategic plan actually states that “the strategies are the basic approach to achieving the zoo’s goals. Rather than develop strategies for every goal, the plan includes a small set of strategies, each of which addresses multiple goals; the limited number of strategies is intended to keep the strategic plan tightly focused.” The first three strategies are in reality the processes that should have occurred during the strategic-planning process to develop an operational plan. Instead the difficult task of developing an operational plan has been deferred to a later date. In addition to the lack of specific actions for attaining each 1-year and 5-year goals, the strategies outlined to achieve the goals of the strategic plan lack any details regarding the timeline for developing the master plan and organizational design and who is responsible for developing these plans. Furthermore, the strategic plan appears to pass responsibility for developing the master plan and organizational design on to the individual units of the zoo. In
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Animal Care and Management at the National Zoo: Final Report the section “Next Steps: Implementing the Plan,” the strategic plan states that “by the end of 2004, each ‘unit’ within the zoo will complete unit strategic plans and performance measures, based on the goals and strategies outlined in the overarching Plan. These unit plans will guide staff performance plans, encourage cross-unit activities, and support the newly identified Core Values.” Because the zoo strategic plan did not include an operational plan, it will be impossible for the zoo to evaluate its progress in achieving its goals (particularly its long-term goals). That could lead to frustration and disenfranchisement of the people who undertook the strategic-planning process and the employees and stakeholders who contributed information and advice. Performance Measures An effective strategic plan includes specific criteria to evaluate the progress on and effectiveness of the operational plan in achieving the goals of the strategic plan. The zoo’s strategic plan states that “the performance measures are the indicators used to determine if progress is being made toward the zoo’s vision; these are the benchmarks that will be used during the first year of implementation of the plan. At the end of one year, the measures will be assessed based upon the starting point and the degree to which they drive change and reflect accomplishments.” Each goal category (animal management, staff and organization, and facilities) includes a list of performance standards, but describe methods for analysis and are not actually standards. For example, a performance measure for the short-term animal management goals is “percentage of decisions about animal moves and species acquisition made based upon collection plan that reflects integration of science, education, exhibit and facility priorities.” Who has responsibility for deciding whether a decision about animal moves and acquisitions was based upon the collection plan? What percentage should the zoo be striving to achieve–50%, 80%, 95%? Another example of a vague and unuseful performance standard is in the facilities section of the strategic plan: “Number of significant finds (problems) identified by RCM (Reliability Centered Maintenance).” This performance measure does not identify a goal to be achieved but implies that the zoo has not yet identified all the problems with its facilities. Facility problems should have been identified at the start of the strategic-planning process as part of the situational analysis. Because the strategic plan did not include an operational plan for achieving the 1-year and 5-year goals, performance measures were impossible to develop appropriately. FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS Findings: The strategic plan is a good articulation of the mission and 10-year vision of the zoo and includes a bold proposal to integrate the CRC science programs with the Rock Creek Park exhibits and programs, thereby creating a unique niche in the larger zoo community that cannot be fulfilled by the Rock Creek Park facility alone. The strategic plan’s lack of a situational analysis to examine the zoo’s internal and external operational environments brings into question the appropriateness and completeness of the strategic plan’s 1-year and 5-year goals for achieving the zoo’s long-term vision. The strategic plan lacks an operational plan that details how the zoo plans to attain its 1- and 5-year goals. Without an operational plan, the strategic plan is a statement of vision and not a road map for change at the zoo. There were many failures that occurred during the zoo’s strategic-planning process that in the committee’s opinion undermined efforts to produce a useful document. The strategic planning committee failed to perform a situational analysis that would have created a clear understanding of the resources available to the zoo to attain its goals, as well as the threats that need to be counteracted in order for the zoo to achieve its goals. Even more importantly, the strategic plan lacked an operational plan that details how the zoo plans to attain its strategic goals. Though the committee felt the goals identified in the strategic plan were vague, it is impossible to attain any goal of a strategic plan if the operational plan is not in place.
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Animal Care and Management at the National Zoo: Final Report Several other factors undermined the strategic planning effort; for instance, the lack of involvement of senior management in the deliberative stages of the strategic-planning process. The strategic-planning team was responsible for gathering feedback and developing each section of the strategic plan. The senior-management team was involved only after each section was substantially completed by the strategic-planning team. As compared to the members of the strategic-planning team, the senior management team has a wider view of the zoo’s administration, financial situation, and outside pressures and an understanding of the staff, budgetary, and organizational efforts needed to achieve the goals of the strategic plan. The failure to include senior management in the entire strategic-planning process undoubtedly had an adverse effect on the process. Another factor that undermined the strategic-planning process was the limited scope of the strategic-planning process. An effective strategic plan for the zoo should have included a master plan to provide orderly, comprehensive development of the Rock Creek Park and Front Royal sites and a detailed operational plan for the 1-year and 5-year goals. Rather than clearly defining expectations for the strategic-planning process and properly composing the committee to include senior management and technical experts (such as an architect or engineer) so that a comprehensive, effective strategic plan could be developed; the Smithsonian Institution and the zoo permitted extensive staff time and resources to be used to develop a handful of visionary statements. Before the final draft of the zoo’s strategic plan had been completed in May 2004, the Smithsonian Institution and the zoo initiated a process to hire an external consulting firm to develop the master plan. The firm, which will be selected from respondents to an advertised description of the task (Smithsonian Institution, Federal Business Opportunities Announcement for Master Planning Support, May 13, 2004), will be expected to have had experience in zoo planning and to provide a master plan consistent with current standards and guidelines for animal care while maintaining the zoo's historical character. The advertisement required applicants to provide answers to a series of questions highly relevant to the strategic planning. Perhaps the most interesting requirement was to respond to the question, “What are the opportunities to distinguish the National Zoo (including its 3,200-acre facility in Front Royal, VA) from all other zoos?” Those opportunities should have been identified at the beginning of the strategic-planning process as part of the situational analysis, and the answer to the question should have helped the strategic-planning team to define the mission of the zoo. It is apparent that the hard work and dedication of the strategic-planning team has been undermined, as basic questions about the zoo’s future identity have yet to be answered. Recommendations: The zoo should perform a situational analysis and use this analysis to reassess the goals and vision of the strategic plan. A detailed operational plan for attaining the 1-year and 5-year goals of the strategic plan should be developed. Appropriate performance measures should be identified to track the zoo’s progress in attaining the goals of the strategic plan. These measures should be evaluated at least annually to determine whether those goals are being met and whether the strategic or operational plan requires modification. The strategic plan should directly link the plan for revitalizing the physical facilities with the animal-acquisition plan to ensure that planned expansion of the zoo’s animal collection can occur without taxing already failing facilities and compromising animal and staff safety.
Representative terms from entire chapter: