Friday, January 27, 2012

Categorized SWOT Questionnaire Responses

Below is a rather detailed document collecting together all the responses we received to our questionnaire prior to the Sangha-wide SWOT meeting.  Bonnie M. and Dora D. worked together to sort the responses and put them broadly in like categories.  Within those categories, responses are divided into their respective categories--strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats/challenges.  These are the general categories Bonnie and Dora identified:
  • Teachers 
  • Programs and Teachings
  • Sangha
  • Volunteer/Staffing
  • Organizational
  • Facilities
  • SCOL
  • Larger Community
  • Miscellaneous
This is a brainstormed list and represents the broadest group of ideas we have to work with.  Over time, we'll hone it down to five or six items.  Beginning in late March or early April, we'll begin to have sangha focus groups to focus those larger categories into strategic items.  (Under facilities, the strategic item may be "secure a larger urban center with a commercial kitchen and rooms sufficient to host study groups, the children's program, and offices," for example.)  The document is long, but if you have some time, scan through it and notice the depth of thinking from the Sangha and also areas of anxiety, opportunity, conflict, and inspiration.  They are all excellent grist for a juicy strategic plan!

(Also, note that there is a button that allows you to download the document so you don't have to read it in the window on this blog.)

Categorized Responses to SWOT Questionairre

Meeting Notes for January 16

Below are the notes for our January 16 meeting, which I described here. The Strategic Planning Committee met on Monday, January 23rd as well, but there isn't a lot to report from that meeting.  In it, we went over the timeline for the strategic planning process and members of the committee individually discussed their time availability.  After the meeting was over, we were hopeful that the timeline was do-able.  The plan is still to finish this project by December of this year.  We will begin having Sangha focus groups beginning probably in late March or April. 

Meeting Notes - January 16, 2012

Sunday, January 22, 2012

After the SWOT, Formulating Issues and Focal Points

On January 14th, the KCC Sangha met to discuss KCC's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats/challenges (SWOT).  This work was a preliminary step in beginning to hone down the major categories of strategic focus.  As a way of transitioning into that next step, meeting organizers asked attendees to fill out 3x5 cards and identify the areas that seemed most pressing to them.  It was a good time to get a first sense of things--the SWOT items and discussion were freshly in mind.  Peter F graciously agreed to take the cards you filled out and collapse them into categories.  There were, of course, a lot of answers given by just one or two people.  (Peter's chart is at the end of this post.)  Four responses, however, were given by large numbers of people, and two others were also mentioned frequently.  Have a look:
  1. Communication (28)
  2. Fundraising and financial transparency (27)
  3. Volunteers; organizing, management, mentoring (27)
  4. Urban Center (22)
  5. Program and practice groups (13)
  6. Succession (11)
On Monday following that meeting, members of the Strategic Planning Committee (SPC) met and we spent the majority of the meeting further discussing these categories.  One of the difficulties is thinking about how to frame these categories conceptually.  With little effort, we can divide KCC's activities into major areas--facilities, finances, operations, volunteers, programs, communications.  But these categories alone don't suggest a strategic orientation.  It's easy enough to imagine that the strategy for one or more of these categories is just "continue with current practices." 

A panoramic view of the January 16 meeting of the Strategic Planning Committee.

Take the urban center as one example.  We have known for well over a decade that the current site at 73 NE Monroe is inadequate--too small, too few meeting rooms.  But what is our strategic goal?  Do we merely want a bigger center, or do we want a different center, and if so, what kind?  Asking these questions is more useful than just identifying categories--they help bring the larger category in to sharper focus. After kicking ideas around for an hour, members of the SPC began to get a deeper sense of what we were actually looking for--and realized we had a lot more work in front of us.

What are your thoughts?  If you were limited to five or six strategic initiatives over the next five years, what would they be? 

At the next SPC meeting (Monday, Jan 23), the committee will step back from this discussion in order to try to lay out a firmer timeline of events, with members identifying how much time and work they can commit to the process.  Then we'll be back at it, focusing back in on the strategic plan.

A document containing the aggregated list of suggested topics for KCC's strategic direction are below the jump.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Meeting Notes for January 2, 2012

Here are the meeting notes for the January 2 meeting of the Strategic Planning Committee.

SPC Notes 1/2/2012

Meeting Notes for December 19

We will be posting the notes from all our meetings here.  We won't go back to the start of the process (though if you wish to see any set of notes, email Jeff Alworth at alworthj at, but here are the set from our meeting on December 19, 2011.

SPC Notes 12/19.11

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Fantastic SWOT

On Saturday,members of the Sangha came together at the Heart of Wisdom Zen Temple in Northeast Portland for informal kick-off of KCC's strategic planning process.  We were meeting to assess the KCC's Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats/challenges.  This followed a period where Sangha members were invited to offer their suggestions via questionnaire.  In all, fifty members filled out the questionnaire and around sixty people came to the meeting.  Extraordinary!

In the coming days, we will make all that input available--the full, unedited document containing all responses as well as a distillation of some of the key themes.   We'll put those out via this blog, on the Community listserv, and provide a link at our Facebook page.  Also, at the end of the meeting, facilitator Julia King Tamang asked attendees to fill out cards identifying their five most important topic areas for KCC to address.  We'll provide information about what folks said on those, too.

Next Steps/Further Information
Assessing KCC's S, W, O, and Ts was just the first step in strategic planning.  These will help guide the Strategic Planning Committee (SPC) as it decides on several key areas of planning.  When Dharma Rain went through a similar process, these were the issue areas ("focal points") they identified:
  • Facilities
  • Rigor in Practice (essentially curriculum and programs)
  • Children and Families
  • Succession and Leadership
  • Related and Cohort Groups
  • Staffing and Finances
 As the Strategic Planning Committee begins to narrow its own focus, we will ask for Sangha input on whether the topics seem well-selected and appropriate to address KCC's challenges.  After we have a set of topic areas, the SPC will schedule public meetings so Sangha members can help shape and direct the strategic plan.  Stay tuned!

Below are a few photos (not spectacular photographically--the light was terrible) for those of you who missed the meeting. 

Resident Teacher Michael Conklin gives an introduction.

Julia King Tamang was a spectacular facilitator.

Dora DeCoursey and Alan Gladstone recorded Sangha input.

Tanya Barham offers input.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Why SWOT Ourselves?

The SWOT board at KCC
On Saturday, KCC will kick off the substantive part of our strategic planning process in style--with a meeting to assess our Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (or challenges). While it seems obvious enough what we hope to accomplish in the meeting, how this fits in with strategic planning may be less so. As it turns out, such an assessment is an absolutely critical to understanding an organization so that the strategic plan is based on real circumstances, not overly rosy ones.  It's a moment to be clear-eyed and pragmatic.

Take, for example, a few of the responses we've already gotten back from people in our survey.  Under Strengths, people have noted:
  • Carry practice in volunteer work
  • Commitment of sangha
  • Get a lot out of small amount of income
KCC, an all-volunteer community, has enormous resources in its committed sangha.  When we think about the tools we have to carry out our strategic plan, one is a community who will work to support KCC.

But what kinds of barriers do we face?  Under Weaknesses, people identified:
  • Too much emphasis on process; slow decision-making  
  • Lack of space/size of KCC   
  • Failure to attract younger people
One of the downsides of an all-volunteer organization is that things get done more slowly.  It may not be reasonable to consider a strategic plan that requires nimble decision-making.  The failure to attract younger people might be a concern for the future stability of KCC.  Do we need to include something in the model that includes attracting a diverse sangha?  Finally, KCC has a less-than-ideal urban center.  We can either continue with its known limitations or consider looking for something more suitable.  Either way, we need to include it in the mix of weaknesses we face.

Ever organization that has weaknesses also has opportunities.  A few that people highlighted were:
  • Could maximize our rich teachings through publication  
  • Collaboration with other groups   
  • Expand sangha by buying/renting new urban center
Finally, what are the threats and challenges that endanger KCC?  Generally speaking, these are outside forces.  (The current economic downturn has affected KCC's financial situation, for example.)  People suggested these threats:
  • Loss of key people, including lama(s)  
  • Size of the sangha as limited by KCC's urban center size  
  • Financial viability with expanded programs in Portland and at SCOL
These are by no means exhaustive, but they give an idea of how the Strategic Planning Committee will use them as they begin thinking about KCC's future.  We hope you'll join us on Saturday to help consider these important--and fascinating--aspects of KCC.