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.


  • 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.

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