Planning workshop open to public tonight |

Planning workshop open to public tonight

Sheila Gardner

Consultant Lee Early knows there’s no quicker way to clear a room than to use the words “strategic plan.”

That’s why he prefers the term “practical vision” to describe the goal of tonight’s operational planning workshop at the Carson Valley Inn for county commissioners, staff and the public.

“This is not a group grope or a touchy-feely encounter group,” Early said. “The only things I ask people to bring are their heads, a piece of paper and a pencil and be willing to go to work.”

Early hopes that about 50 people will attend the workshop from 5 to 9 p.m. and be willing to commit to the process.

“Anybody who walks in the door (tonight) better know that they will be on a task force. There are no spectators at this workshop,” Early said.

To a public that’s strategic- planned, down-sized, right-sized and focus grouped-out, Early has words of encouragement.

“I call this operational planning,” he said. “It’s way beyond strategy. A lot of strategic plans are four inches thick and come with a quarter-inch executive summary because nobody’s going to read the whole plan. It just sits on a shelf.”

The difference, Early said, is that operational planning builds in follow up.

“The county is experiencing a lot of change, a lot of uncertainty and a fair amount of ambiguity,” said Early.

“I don’t think the problem is going to be apathy,” he said. “I think the challenge is going to be passionate opinion. One of the most effective ways to overcome obstacles is to get consensus on what our common vision is.”

He said he welcomes skeptics.

“Skeptics are great,” Early said. “I love them. They come in with a relatively open mind, but they are not going to let you get away with anything. They ask a lot of questions and don’t accept anything at face value. That’s great because I don’t have anything up my sleeve. I don’t have much use for cynics, but skeptics can become your best ally.”

Early said he expects to open the session with conversation on trends or change and how those processes are affecting the county.

“It’s different from strategic planning. This is both short- and long-range planning. This is vision-driven, contradiction-focused and action-oriented,” Early said.

Early has more than 20 years experience in facilitating what he calls community development.

“We involve people from all different perspectives. We go from vision to action. Once we get the vision articulated, we focus on removing the blocks or contradictions,” he explained.

“I’ve done community development demonstrations all over the place. It does take a lot of energy out of you, but two things really get me going. One is positive. I get a kick out of people articulating their visions and working on a very effective method to get there. The other thing is negative and that is when people operate out of a victim image. If there is the biggest alligator in the pond crawling up my pants leg, that’s it. It’s the people saying, ‘We can’t do that, we already tried it.’ Or they say, ‘We can’t do that because we never tried it before.'”

Tonight’s workshop is open to anyone, said County Manager Dan Holler. He’s hoping for a turnout of about 50 to 60 people.

“You can’t come and just watch,” Holler said. “We want people to participate. We plan to have break-out sessions and come up with solutions.

“This is not a meeting for the board of county commissioners and county staff to come up with solutions,” Holler said. “For just county staff or board to decide will be a less than fruitful exercise. You need the community involvement.”

Holler said he and the five county commissioners were looking forward to the workshop.

“I think the board is looking forward to community interaction,” Holler said. “The most frustrating part is making decisions without input. Getting the input after the decision is made is too late.”

Early will be paid $1,000 for tonight’s session. What happens after that is still to be decided. Follow-up sessions range from two- and three-day workshops.

“If something fruitful comes out of this one, people might say, ‘Let’s try some more,'” Holler said.