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Contingency Planning and Strategic Planning in Action!

Katahdin Cruises & the Moosehead Marine Museum

“Shakedown” Cruise…

Recently, David and I drove to Greenville, Maine and climbed aboard the steamboat Katahdin.  Liz McKeil, the Executive Director of the Moosehead Marine Museum, had invited us up for the annual Katahdin Shakedown Cruise, conducted by the crew to ensure that systems are working properly and to run “the Kate” through her paces. 

Whether you are a Maine resident or a visitor to our beautiful state, traveling up to Greenville and taking a cruise on the Katahdin is an experience you won’t want to miss.  The Katahdin cruises on Moosehead Lake, the largest lake in Maine.  As you can see from the photo, the steamboat has spacious decks with ample indoor and outdoor seating.  A full galley serves beverages, sandwiches and snacks, and the boat is handicap accessible. 

For anyone reading who is “not from around here” (as is said in Maine), here is a short history lesson about a bygone era.  Steamboat history began on Moosehead Lake in 1836.  As many as 50 boats once steamed up the lake carrying passengers, livestock, mail, supplies and equipment.  Steamboats were the only means of transportation to the large resorts, like Mount Kineo, as well as the small hunting camps and villages around the lake.  By the late 1930’s, with the development of roads around Moosehead, only the Katahdin remained.  Used as a towboat to haul “booms” (rafts) of logs until 1975, “the Kate” participated in the last log drive and was then designated a National Historic Landmark.

In 1976, the nonprofit Moosehead Marine Museum was founded and acquired the Katahdin as its star exhibit.  In addition to the Katahdin, the Museum has an extensive collection of steamboat memorabilia and early photographs of the Moosehead area.  The Marine Museum is dedicated to preserving the glorious days of steamboating and the heritage of the Moosehead Lake Region.  The museum has raised considerable sums of money from very generous donors to allow the Katahdin to continue sailing. 

As part of the Moosehead Marine Museum’s strategic planning process, Executive Director Liz McKeil and the Board are looking at a big fundraising push over 5 – 7 years to rebuild the Katahdin’s second deck and create a reserve to cover increasing capital expenses.  To learn more about Katahdin Cruises and the Moosehead Marine Museum, click on the link below, and plan for a visit!  The Moosehead Lake area and the Katahdin steamboat are two of Maine’s unique and beloved treasures.

On the Katahdin’s Shakedown Cruise we participated in a fire drill and watched closely as the crew also did a man overboard drill and loss of steering drill.  Here’s a short video of the way in which the crew of the Katahdin are trained to get the boat and its passengers safely back to shore if ever there is a loss of steering. 

Steering if power is lost. . .

Being up there for the Shakedown Cruise got me thinking about the importance of actively making time to do contingency planning and strategic planning and of being committed to looking ahead and doing your best to be ready for anything and everything that can impact your organization.  Stop for a minute and think about the safety drills that the Katahdin and her crew were practicing.  With a steamboat like the Katahdin, safety for all is obviously critical.  Having a plan and a crew trained in what to do if the unexpected happens out on Moosehead Lake makes clear sense. 

It makes just as much sense for EVERY organization to have its own contingency plans.  What would happen in your business if something happened that impacted your ability to “steer” your organization???  Life happens.  Contingency planning and strategic planning can help you be better prepared and support making your vision for the future a reality.  A side benefit is that you just might sleep better at night, knowing that you’ve got a plan!

5 things you can do right now to get your business ready to survive an unexpected curve ball:

  1. Identify and prioritize the most likely risks to your business
  2. For each risk that you identify, create “Plan B” for what you would do if the unexpected happened
  3. Communicate the “Plan B” components to anyone and everyone involved in operations
  4. Just as the Katahdin crew trains to be ready, make sure that your people are trained and ready to successfully carry out “Plan B” for each of the business risks you have identified
  5. Annually, go through this contingency planning exercise and update “Plan B” as conditions change that impact the outlook for your business

Contingency planning is often done in tandem with strategic planning.  Is your strategic plan missing in action or in need of an update?   Many organizations think they are too busy to do a strategic plan.  Don’t be one of them.  Other organizations create a bright, shiny, beautiful strategic plan and then put it on the shelf and leave it there.  Don’t do that either. 

A Strategic Thinking and Planning Framework

Considering the following three questions will get you started.  There may be other questions specific to your business that also need to be answered, but the framework can be your starting place while you figure things out. 

  1. Where are we now?
    1. Review of current Vision, Mission, Values (or create them if you have not done this work yet)
    2. What’s going well?
    3. What’s not going well?
    4. What are our strengths?
    5. What are our development needs? (weaknesses)
    6. Who are we wanting/trying to attract?  Who or what is our desired market?
    7. What do we identify as our opportunities and threats?
    8. What events are occurring (or that we think are likely to occur) in the external environment to which we need to pay attention?
    9. Do we have “competitors”?  If yes, what do they do well and not so well?  In what ways are they stronger, better, or more effective than our organization?
    10. What’s our story?  How are we known and perceived within the community?
  • Where are we hoping to go?
    1. Think about planning and looking out over the next 3 – 5 years (at least)
    2. What is our best guess about the future?  Does our Vision and our Mission align with our best guess?
    3. What are our high-level strategic priorities and goals?  Are some goals more important than others?
  • How do we hope to get there? (the future we are envisioning)
    1. What would it take to make our high-level goals a reality?  (resources, barriers, etc.)
    2. What would be our measures of “success”?
    3. Action planning steps (who, what, when. . .) to move us from where we are now to where we are hoping to go

Whether operating a steamboat or leading an organization, it’s always good to know where you are, where you’re heading, how to get there, and to anticipate what could go wrong along the way…

To know more about we can help you develop your organization strategies, please get in touch.

Ginger Ward-Green

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