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Multiple Facilities? No Problem: A Strategic Planning Case Study of North Carolina Aquariums

Girl in dress looking a large aquarium


In January 2014, the North Carolina Aquariums team presented Zoo Advisors with a challenge—could Zoo Advisors design a strategic planning process that would involve all of their staff at all four Aquariums and complete it in a short period of time to meet the expectations of both the State DENR and the North Carolina Aquarium Society?


We’re pleased to say we could and we did. Working with Aquarium leadership, we created an inclusive process to meaningfully engage all staff and volunteers in developing a vision for the future, plus goals and objectives that would guide the organization and the individual sites for the next three to five years.

Key to the success of this ambitious project was the Aquarium’s “Super Team”—a smart, energetic, and organized group of eight staffers drawn from among the sites’ senior leadership, two from each site. This amazing team rallied the troops, arranged logistics, contributed ideas, led small group discussions, and helped draft goals and objectives. Our first workshop was in January, we presented to the Board in April, and wrapped things up in May. Throughout the process we had more than 150 staff members and volunteers take part who now “own” the plan, from facilities technicians to gift shop staff and the husbandry team.


NCA’s plan includes an expansion of their conservation and science work and creation of an exemplary guest experience—areas that are already strengths and where they’d like to demonstrate excellence.  The Super Team and NCA employees will be fine tuning and further developing site-specific action steps over the next couple of months before Zoo Advisors’ “check in” call in the early fall.

The Super Team and the employees’ participation made this project rewarding and fun, and Zoo Advisors is proud to have been part of it all.

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Dr. Frederick Lahodny

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