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Case study: City of West Sacramento Council Strategic Retreat

Bringing new energy and focus to a strategic retreat process

For decades, the West Sacramento City Council has developed its annual strategic plan through an on-site strategic planning retreat.  During the retreat, Council members synthesize their individual ideas with staff recommendations in order to arrive upon a broad consensus that serves as a framework for the coming year. After more than 20 years with the same consultant, the City wanted a new professional strategic planning and meeting facilitator in order to maximize the productivity of these sessions and to expedite the Council’s discussions of multiple complicated topics over three days.



To start, we met with all Council members and executive staff in order to develop an understanding of key issues, interpersonal dynamics, and other factors that might offer common ground or derail the retreat.  We worked closely with the Mayor and City Manager to devise a strategy to make sure all voices were heard while finding a path to consensus.


We created a detailed agenda for approximately 20 hours of meetings spanning three days. Our agendas clearly delineated desired outcomes, roles and responsibilities, timing, as well as space, equipment, food, logistics and other inputs necessary for a successful series of meetings.

We facilitated a variety of meetings between and among staff and the City Council in order to create a pleasant, productive, and dynamic retreat experience for participants. We employed activities such as worksheets, exercises, and discussion in both large and small groups and facilitated by technology where appropriate to synthesize multiple viewpoints into a coherent strategic plan. We were also able to wrap up the retreat in only two full days for all participants, followed by a half day session with the project team to debrief and prepare the final report.


In consultation with staff, we produced a written report that summarized the Council’s deliberations, including an overview document that lists City Council priorities in a visually appealing summary format suitable for use on posters, bookmarks, and other materials distributed to City staff and the community.

Since then, it’s been our honor to be asked back to facilitate three consecutive annual retreats for Council.