Brochure cover illustration: Power Forward 2030

New strategic plan powers WAPA forward

Nearly a year in the making, WAPA released its updated strategic plan Feb. 7, 2023. Power Forward 2030 will guide WAPA’s strategic direction for the next seven years as the organization works to safeguard a sustainable energy future, modernize the grid and invest in its employees. 

WAPA is no stranger to strategic planning. The organization published its first strategic plan nearly 30 years ago and has continued to grow and mature its efforts. Although each plan has strategically aligned with WAPA’s mission, the goals and objectives have changed over time to reflect the state of the industry as well as current events and societal shifts. 

Power Forward 2030, or ‘PF30’ for short, “sets out an organizational strategic direction where reliable and flexible hydropower play a critically essential role in a clean energy future,” said Administrator and CEO Tracey LeBeau.

If you are interested in reading more about how WAPA developed the plan, check out the “Employee feedback shapes strategic plan” and “Developing Power Forward 2030” stories in the May and December 2022 issues of the Closed Circuit. 

Plan aligns bottom to top

PF30 outlines three strategic goals. In addition to supporting WAPA’s mission and vision, they define the critical areas where WAPA will need to invest time and resources to reach its desired outcomes. From there, it defines 13 strategic objectives, organized into four perspectives – Customers, People/Culture, Resource Stewardship and Processes – that align with the plan’s goals, ensuring WAPA progresses in the right areas to advance the plan.  

“Identifying our objectives through the lens of these different perspectives ensures we hit all areas of the organization,” said Chief Strategy Officer Kerry Whitford. 

Whitford explained that if you only think about the plan from one perspective, you may miss some necessary pieces. She offered the example that if you want to “prepare and adapt to a changing energy landscape” (an objective that falls under the customer perspective), you must also consider the workforce skills you will need to get there, the resources you will need and the processes that will support and sustain changes. 

Under each strategic objective, there are also strategic initiatives, which outline the actions and projects necessary to achieve the objective. These serve as the “how” WAPA will accomplish its objectives. To ensure initiative progress and success, each has an assigned senior strategic champion and an initiative lead, often a subject matter expert in the initiative topic. 

Improving on existing success

Employees may notice some similarities to WAPA’s previous strategic plan, Strategic Roadmap 2024, such as high-level goals, objectives designed to support them and overall alignment with WAPA’s mission and vision.  

“When you’re defining a path forward, you want to make sure you keep the good elements of your plan. You want to build on them and keep the momentum,” Whitford said.  

In some cases, plan elements have been carried forward. Other previous elements have become operationalized, or integrated, into WAPA’s organizational culture – they’ve become part of the fabric of who WAPA is and how it operates, therefore they are no longer identified as a strategic focus. 

Employees have also noticed that some parts of the plan look different. Early feedback since the plan’s release raises the question about the number of strategic objectives and if WAPA might be trying to accomplish too much. 

Many of the Tactical Action Plan items of the previous plan were new, standalone projects, developed to advance the plan’s objectives and goals. There were challenges with resourcing the projects, even though they were prioritized as part of the plan. To this point, Whitford added, “In PF30, many of the strategic initiatives are in support of existing efforts – not on top of them. The strategic initiatives are aimed at taking something we’re already doing and doing a piece of it differently … more strategically.”  

Whitford further explained that the initiatives might be an expansion or improvement of a process. For example, WAPA already uses data to target investments in equipment reliability. The objective to optimize investments in system reliability expands and matures those efforts. Most importantly, PF30 is intended to prioritize activities and resources by identifying the most critical. “We might prioritize or align efforts differently to ensure achievement of strategic objectives and goals,” she added.  

Another key point is that WAPA will not attempt to address each initiative and objective immediately or simultaneously. They will be staggered. 

“When the XLT identified and prioritized the strategic initiatives, they considered both short-term, less complex and longer-term, more resource-intensive efforts,” Whitford explained. “Some will be short and sweet – quick wins. Others may take a few years, and that’s ok.” Because many plan elements are related and almost every objective aligns to all three goals, progress in any one area supports progress in others. 

People power the plan

The Strategy Office is eager for employees to become familiar with the plan and ultimately begin making connections between their individual contributions and PF30. The Strategy Office, Public Affairs and WAPA’s senior managers will partner with programs across the organization to ensure PF30 information is available and to share progress. However, it will be less successful and engaging if they do the work alone.  

Last month, Sierra Nevada’s Director of Maintenance and Construction Tim Alme, who also serves as the WAPA Maintenance Managers Council chair, delivered a WMMC update to WAPA senior managers. In it, he included a slide showing how the WMMC aligns with PF30, outlining the specific perspectives and objectives the council supports and identifying activities that advance the objectives. 

When asked about his early adoption in making those connections, Alme offered, “I wanted to highlight what the WMMC is doing and how we are being innovative and strategic. WMMC members quickly suggested the exercise of tying our work to Power Forward 2030.”  

The philosophy he shares with his team in SN, as well as the WMMC, is that strategic plans and core values are not just words on paper – they are guideposts. “They help show the path forward. They inform our actions and our decisions,” Alme added. “They can – and should – help us focus on the most important things we work on. We need to incorporate them into our work and how we work, and we need to talk about it.” 

The development of PF30 represents a living exercise in the core value to “Seek. Share. Partner.” Employees, customers and stakeholders gave input at each key milestone of strategy formulation. As much as this plan is “WAPA’s,” it also belongs to its people. Stay tuned for opportunities to tell your stories about your connection to PF30 and how you help power WAPA forward. 

What’s next?

Around the time this story is published, WAPA’s strategic initiative champions will participate in a third workshop to develop their initiative implementation plans, which will outline the actions and milestones needed to make progress on the objectives. Concurrently, WAPA will develop key performance indicators to evaluate and measure progress toward the objectives. Additionally, WAPA will direct resources toward strategic priorities, with formalized implementation and reporting beginning by Oct. 1.  

“Power Forward 2030 is intended to drive the ‘strategic’ in ‘strategic plan,’” said Whitford. “I am confident it will keep us all moving in the same direction as we work toward the goals we know to be so critical to our industry, our customers and our success.” 

LeBeau added, “As we face a new era of change, including an evolving energy industry, large infrastructure investments, increasing threats and severe weather risks, we will leverage our productive legacy to power forward.” 

Note: The author is a management and program analyst. 

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Last modified on March 12th, 2024