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Recorder's Notes for The San Diego Natural History Museum
Strategic Planning Session #1

July 31, 2001

Mission | Positioning | Values/Culture

Attendees: Mr. Richard Benard, Ms. Darcy C. Bingham, Ms. Pam Bruder, Mr. Richard Bundy, Dr. Paisley Cato, Ms. Charlotte Chandler, Ms. Dale Clark, Dr. Tom Deméré, Ms. Denise Moreno Ducheny, Dr. Anne S. Fege, Mr. Steve Gautereaux, Dr. Michael W. Hager, Mr. Enrique Hambleton, Ms. Ann Laddon, Mr. Steven P. McDonald, Mr. Jerry Navarra, Mr. Thomas A. Page, Mr. Bill Trumpfheller, Ms. Ann White, Ms. Delle Willett

The session began at 8:40 a.m. in an unusual way - with Bob Smith announcing the description of the new Museum boardroom chairs and how to use them, as they conform to a person's height and degree of angle for sitting comfortably! Mr. Smith said the sessions will all be casual and comfortable. Mr. Smith introduced Charlotte Chandler.

Ms. Chandler, President of the San Diego Natural History Museum Board of Trustees, said that in July of 1991 a small group of committed people gathered to craft a Strategic Plan for the then ailing San Diego Natural History Museum and were greeted with the words that are as true today as they were when written: "Where there is no Vision the People perish," from Proverbs. She said the new 10-year Plan we are about to develop is the final action plan step needed to complete implementation of the last Strategic Plan. Our Vision for the next decade will have the advantages of a new facility, new board, new partners, and wonderful new opportunities. She quoted the words of the great philosopher Pogo: "We are surrounded by insurmountable opportunities." On behalf of the Board of Trustees of the Museum, Ms. Chandler thanked each member for their commitment of time, energy and creative thought, and that with the collective wisdom and experience of the group and participation of literally hundreds of others on committees and through surveys and other research, a new plan can be crafted which will be as exciting, creative and bold as the last one.

Dr. Hager then welcomed the participants and gave a brief history of the Museum over the past decade.

Mr. Smith referred to the Detailed Schedule for Strategic Planning Session #1 to give an overview of the day's agenda. He explained the planning process, described in the document, "Design for San Diego Natural History Museum Strategic Planning" and introduced other items within the Planning Notebook, including the roster of Strategic Planning Team (SPT) members. He explained that the notebook is designed to be a place to keep all of the handouts.

Self-introductions were made among the group and then Mr. Smith discussed aspects of the strategic planning process:

How organized

  • Strategic Planning Team (SPT)
  • Community Advisors
  • Task Forces
  • Workshops - Tijuana, La Paz
  • Target Audiences Research
  • Visits to other museums
  • Guest Resource Persons
  • Secondary Research Sources
  • Chairs - Charlotte Chandler, Mick Hager
  • Facilitators - Cynthia Carson, Bob Smith
  • Recorder - Sheila McCully
  • Support - "All Around" - Maryann Beck, Mary Smith

Dr. Hager introduced the book The U.S.-Mexican border environment: A road map to a sustainable 2020 edited by Paul Ganster; the Winter 2001, Volume XV Number 1, and the Summer 2001, Volume XVI Number 2, of the San Diego Natural History Museum Field Notes; and the SANDAG INFO, September-October 1999, No. 5 edition, which were given to each member. In addition, each was invited to take a personal copy of the book by Dr. Iris Engstrand, Professor of History at University of San Diego, Inspired by Nature, The San Diego Natural History Museum After 125 Years.

Dr. Hager explained that the 1991-2001 strategic plan for the Museum was titled "Full Circle," because it refocused the Museum back on the region where it began in 1874. He gave an overview of the Full Circle Strategic Plan 1991-2001 (Attachment 1) and told how when he first came to the Museum he was greeted with a $461,000 deficit. He described the struggle to keep the Museum doors open and to stabilize operations while envisioning and developing big plans for its future. Dr. Hager also shared his vision of the implementation of the plan over the last 10 years from behind-the-scenes (Attachment 2). He said our next vision will be fun because it will be about new outreach and programs rather than the basic task of bringing the Museum up to its present level. He displayed the Museum Vision and distributed a copy of an ad that recently ran in The New York Times, which focuses on the commitment of Mexican President Vicente Fox to the Gulf of California Biosphere Reserve as "…the world's aquarium." President Fox's announcement was made at the June 27 premier of the Museum's film Ocean Oasis. (The ad is attached as part of the minutes, attachment 3). As part of the Full Circle recap, Dr. Hager explained each KRA, its objectives and strategies, and how they were carried out through step-by-step action plans. He said that each department has its own plan in support of the Full Circle plan (summary of Full Circle is Attachment 4).


Mr. Smith introduced Cynthia Carson, co-facilitator, to revisit the current Mission, Purpose and Vision. Ms. Carson said most the time would be spent on the Museum Mission because it is the starting point for planning. The definition for "Mission" is, "A comprehensive statement which defines the purpose and nature of an organization of people. It should be future-oriented and provide direction. It helps select the best strategies from among alternatives. It provides focus and concentration." The Museum's Mission is, "To interpret the natural world through research, education, and exhibits; to promote understanding of the evolution and diversity of Southern California and the peninsula of Baja California; to inspire in all people respect for the environment."

The Museum Vision is, "The San Diego Natural History Museum will be the premier collections-based environmental education and natural history research resource in our region. We will provide programs that are timely, user-friendly, and relevant to the real-life needs of the diverse populations of the San Diego/Baja California region today and tomorrow." Ms. Carson asked the participants to take a few minutes to contemplate if the Mission statement is complete - or if changes need to be made to better describe the purpose and nature of the Museum.

Comments gathered for consideration in revising the Mission:

  • Missing in the Mission: oceans and islands; value of the environment; knowledge and information
  • Need to encourage proactive - re environment, protect, conservation
  • States the Museum serves as a center under purpose - need to define type of center
  • Cooperative vs. collaborative effort - which should it be?
  • States "To emphasize" in the purpose - needs definition
  • Define So. CA
  • Who is the organization of people that is the Museum?
  • Include the concept, the Museum is the leader in connecting all organizations with what we do
  • There is a lot of intentional scientific misinformation- goal for the Museum should be to raise scientific literacy
  • Should we take stronger positions?
  • Look at operative words, interpret - promote - inspire- in the Mission. Are they the right words? (might want cooperative/collaboration role identified)
  • There's a 1st person, singular feel to the Mission - is this what we want?
  • Not until the last point is there "cooperation" in the purpose
  • Cooperation aims at consensus - is that what the Museum does?
  • Critical that the Museum take leadership in connecting the region - (there are 2 countries)
  • We do not have a definition of conservation in the Mission
  • No mention of delivery system
  • Show consequences of the future - do we want to be in business of predicting future?
  • Should there be a human aspect dealing with past impact and how humans impact the natural world?
  • Evolution of DNA (POST-IT was added: Regional gene pool)
  • The Museum name is more restrictive than our Mission statement
  • Stewardship of biodiversity of land and natural heritage
  • Interpretation of our Mission could be too narrow
  • Evolution and diversity - not connected to natural environment
  • Training and education: future caretakers of the land should be educated
  • Purpose of research is to give people knowledge to move forward to preserve/conserve the value of the research and science - helps determine what you want the world to look like and how to work towards that
  • There are multiple cultures involved in our Mission
  • Interpret through Research, Education and Science
  • Promote understanding and appreciation… the Mission must be simple statement. Past, present and future - needs to include hierarchy of intensity of involvement (i.e. appreciate). How far do you move involvement from knowledge to value?
  • We need to listen to current Board members as to how the Mission works for them - need to be shorter? - more understandable? Should it be catchy?
(POST-IT was added: To interpret the natural world through research, collection, and analysis; and, to lead in the promotion of the appreciation of the environment of the lower Californias (through education and exhibits)

Mr. Smith distributed a hand-out entitled "Positioning and Niche-Picking" and asked for comments.

Dr. Hager pointed out that there is much research going on regarding people who frequent cultural institutions - why, who, when. This research will be presented at the third or fourth strategic planning session.

Comments on Positioning:
  • Educationally focused - schools, kids
  • Great field trips and one-day courses
  • Place where kids can see dinosaurs
  • "Your nature connection"
  • Great opportunity for volunteerism
  • People think we know everything
  • Binational Museum and projects and partnerships
  • Progressive
  • "Cool place to be associated with"
  • Respected for quality of scientific work...credible with many publics in both countries
  • "Honest brokers of the message"
  • Great place to work
  • Location in Balboa Park...could be dangerous at night, parking issues
  • "We've got nature down to a science"
  • "Think tank"? (POST IT was added: We are not this now)
  • Kids' Museum
  • Museum who looks at itself honestly
  • Bright spot
  • "90% outside the walls"
Values and Culture

Ms. Carson spoke to the Values and Culture. She referred to the "Organizational Values" Notebook insert under the "Session/Hand-Out Readings" tab. She said we would look at "what is" in order to give us a base for what we want to be. The participants were then asked to divide into groups of five to decide what Values have driven the Museum's progress over the past 10 years and then to discuss the Museum's current culture. Each group was asked to appoint a member to report the group's conclusions to the general session. The "Instruction Sheet for Key Values and Culture Breakout Groups" was given to members as they joined their particular group.

Group 1 - Tom Deméré - Reporter
  • Objectivity in a political atmosphere
  • Custodians of collections - into perpetuity Primary Values
  • Fiscal responsibility
  • Protective of the raw materials of research (true to collection/proper methods)
  • Planning - Long-range thinking
  • Belief in Mission
  • There really is no "border" physically
  • Focus and closure
  • Honesty (scientific)
  • Candid
  • Open
  • Belief in Mission
  • Cultural diversity
  • Action over pontification
  • Mixed constituency
  • Multi-Missioned (mkt vs. science Primary Characteristics vs. staff/development vs art)
  • Responsibility and resourcefulness
  • All in this together (paid and unpaid staff)
  • Love or passion for the world
  • Fun place to work - great staff and board
  • Fiscally responsible
  • Collaborative - staff and board
  • Belief in Mission
  • Space envy (we all wish we had a little more!)
  • Casual
  • Belief in exec/board leadership
  • Not much diversity (disconnect w/values)
  • Understaffed/represented (?) (question mark theirs)
  • Respect for expertise
  • Entrepreneurial/ism
Group 2 - Delle Willet - Reporter
  • Sharing information (individuals, groups, Primary Value education, forensics, exhibits, website)
  • Accurate science - caring for collections and research
  • Diversity
  • Sharing information (through partnerships), exhibits/websites
  • Education
  • Volunteerism Opportunities, good training: but interest has leveled off (e.g. size of docent classes), contributions are valued
  • Excellence
  • Sound business management
  • Taking care of objects/collections
  • Commitment to sustainable practices
  • Staff hardworking; valued; taken for granted
  • Casual - dress, work style, flexible work schedule, no human resource person, no formal reward system, open-door
  • Rewards - no formal system for staff; Primary Characteristics for volunteers annually
  • Under staffed, making do more with less, fiscally conservative
  • Staff - self-motivated, achievement-oriented, team oriented, strong commitment to Mission
  • Decision-making - group consensus for most meetings - project driven teams
  • Communication - internal-only moderately effective (staff, board)
  • Clearly defined roles between staff and trustees
  • Support for continuing education, professional development (esp.Spanish, computer)
  • External involvement - publications, presentations, visibility
Group 3 - Enrique Hambleton - Reporter
  • Planning process
  • Mission/Vision - having it, following it
  • Respect for our natural heritage
  • Ethics
  • Excellence (high standards)
  • Hard work, dedication, perseverance
  • Building alliances, partnerships
  • Diversity - biological, geological, cultural
  • Creativity and entrepreneurship, i.e. innovation, thinking "out of the box"
  • All community resources (vol., donors, partners, staff, colleagues, visitors)
  • Enlightened leadership pursuing a vision proactively
  • Research of all kinds (i.e. scientific, marketing, education)
  • Collections and their care (expanding, caring for them, exhibiting, interpreting)
  • Organizational sustainability
  • Learning as an organization (training, consultants, best practices, research)
  • "We look to the future but treasure our past" J.B.
  • The region - Balboa Park, San Diego, + region
  • Leaders
  • Doers
  • Team players
  • Proactive
  • Entrepreneurial
  • User friendly
  • Embrace change
  • Inclusive
  • Adaptive
  • Value volunteers and valued by volunteers
  • Confidence and optimism
  • Enthusiastic, courageous, resourceful, tenacious
  • Multiculturalism/binational
  • Commitment to Mission
  • Good communicators to community/listen and learns from mistakes
Group 4 - Ann Laddon - Reporter
VALUES - What's important
  • Accurate scientific information
  • Quality science and employer
  • Inspire the public
  • Appreciation of nature/region
  • Binational collaboration
  • Behave as entrepreneurs w/sound business practices
  • Commitment to the Mission statement
  • Commitment to facilities and children, education
  • Public understanding and appreciation of the place
  • Accessibility
  • Promoting community involvement/leadership
CULTURE - How we get it done
  • Participation - reliance on committee
  • Inclusive
  • Operate by consensus, or unanimity?
  • Changing as we grow! (the Museum)
  • New building also has affected the change
  • Seek and retain the most capable employees
  • No tolerance with unethical behavior
  • Ability to adapt and change and seize opportunities, size and culture
  • Open communication
  • Friendliness, good, positive attitude

The following are the volunteers from each group who agreed to work as a special committee to compile the Values and Culture statements.

Each group also named has a back-up support person.
Tom Deméré = Steve Gautereaux
Paisley Cato = Delle Willett
Enrique Hambleton = Mick Hager
Ann Laddon = Richard Bundy

Ms. Carson asked for comments regarding group consensus:
  • Dedication to our Mission
  • Scientific integrity

Entrepreneurial - risk-takers; seize opportunities; creative solutions; look for business opportunities; look for ways to apply what we do to the external world. "Intrepreneurial" - Mr. Smith spoke of "intrepreneur" concept - beyond grasping for new opportunities outside; but also creating opportunities inside an organization.

  • Binational region - (do better job binationally than with nationally)
  • Diversity (seeking as a value, but not there yet)
  • Education
  • Custodial/curatorial

The "San Diego Society of Natural History Community Goals and Objectives Committee" dated July 13, 1981 was distributed as a historical perspective of the Museum's values. Dr. Hager commented on the San Diego Natural History Museum organizational chart, (handout) explaining personnel positions and functions. The "Volunteer Groups" organizational chart was also distributed showing the Museum activities and sources of outreach. Mr. Smith said that volunteers are a very important part of the Museum's culture. The last handout was "A Tool for Predicting External Forces." Participants were asked to complete it as soon as possible and send it back to Dr. Hager by October 1. They will be compiled for the November 20th Session #3 meeting.

For the next meeting on September 25th the members will be looking at (1) "backcasting" i.e. statistical and narrative history; and (2) internal strengths and weaknesses. Also to be identified and discussed are Critical Factors for Success, those characteristics which an organization needs to possess in order to succeed in a competitive and changing environment. Ms. Beck, Dr. Hager's executive assistant, will do a follow-up call to SPT members who missed this first session, and Dr. Hager will do a briefing session with them. The session adjourned at 4:45 p.m.

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