Strategic planning meetings: the start and heart of every plan

Every solid plan begins with a goal and many questions. What do we hope to achieve? What is our timeline? Who are the players that will assist? What has been done in the past that worked, or not, and why? What are the steps needed to produce a desired result? How will we measure success? At Basin Electric, the question that lingers and is the start and heart of every plan we craft, is this: How will this goal and result affect our member-owners?

That question is the reason the board of directors, which represents our members, participates in regular strategic planning discussions.

Quarterly strategic planning sessions include directors, senior staff members, and other staff presenters. The most recent meeting was held Sept. 8-9 at Basin Electric's Headquarters in Bismarck, North Dakota. 

Andrew Buntrock, director of strategic planning and communications, says Basin Electric hosts these meetings to have ongoing conversations as the utility industry evolves, disseminate timely information, and be as transparent as possible with the membership.

In 2019, Basin Electric set the strategic goal of “stability” in its strategic planning meetings, to stabilize the rates and the cooperative. That goal is upheld by three pillars that contain the strategic objectives of “member and employee focus,” “continuous improvement,” and “strategic direction/forward look.”

“These strategic objectives are accomplished through department initiatives,” Buntrock says. “For example, the Member Services and Administration group has a department initiative to help enhance member and employee communications. It is doing this, in part, by helping to facilitate the expanded board report that is sent to members each month. In turn, this helps fulfill the strategic objective of member and employee focus. Coming full circle, this helps fulfill the strategic goal of stability, because it increases communication with our member-owners.”

Each department within Basin Electric has specific goals and initiatives that support the strategic goal. 

Strategic planning is a continuous and changing journey. In 2019, meetings were held in January, April, June, and September. The next meeting is scheduled for January 2020. 

During September’s session, participants discussed a number of topics including:

  • Dakota Gasification Company’s benefits to the membership, financial impacts associated with operational changes, scenarios for the financial forecast, and the domino effects on coal;
  • Continued load growth in the Bakken and options for providing electric service;
  • Opportunities with the 45Q tax credit relating to carbon capture and sequestration; and
  • Power supply and resource strategy, and the importance of capacity.

The session also noted several outside groups that are attacking the cooperative business model. With an anti-carbon ideology, these small-but-vocal groups are erroneously questioning co-op values, governance, and transparency and creating seeds of doubt about prices and generation mix. Buntrock says the discussion was a reminder that education is a continuous and changing journey, and that it is every cooperative’s role to provide facts to show the many proactive ways we are doing business. 

“We are focusing on education and messaging to increase engagement with members, statewides, and national co-op associations, while strengthening relationships with regulators and legislators at the state and federal levels,” he says.

Until 2019 comes to a close, Basin Electric and its strategic planning members will continue to seek answers to the questions it asked in developing the goal of stability and fueling the plan. 

In the meantime, at the Basin Electric annual meeting in November, speakers talked about how department initiatives addressed and met the strategic objectives and goal, reflecting on what has been done and how the pillars have evolved.

For 2020, directors and senior staff have named “powering together” as the overall goal with the strategic objectives of member and employee focus, continuous improvement, and strategic direction/forward look. These objectives will be met through initiatives developed by each individual department.