By Erica Olsen

Success hinges on your willingness to create a proactive strategy rather than one that is reactive. Preparing for and embracing change keep organizations thriving. You’ve got to have vision for the future.

During a recent facilitation, we observed this notion as the City of Reno prepared the new vision for their community. In the midst of economic diversification and growth, Reno is being proactive to prepare for a change in population and culture.

The greater Reno, Nevada area is becoming a manufacturing, distribution, arts, and technology hub due in part to Nevada’s attractive tax laws. Combined with the annual Burning Man Festival and the growing University system has resulted in a diverse and robust culture attracting the likes of Amazon, Apple, and Tesla’s multi-billion dollar Gigafactory. The problem? Reno’s aging infrastructure needs some love to support the new growth.

Reno set out to create a new vision for their future, but faced challenges creating one which reflects the wants of both citizens and the council. Here’s how they did it:

  1. Citizen (Customer) Input – Reno did a great job systematically collecting and analyzing citizen input to craft the City’s new vision. Part of creating a vision statement is leveraging the input of your key stakeholders.
  2. A Historical Look Back – The region’s rich history is deeply engrained in its culture, so the Council simply couldn’t forget about the past. They did a fantastic job looking back where they’ve been to help decide where they want to go.
  3. Vision Boarding – Perhaps one of the most successful elements of their planning session was the vision boarding exercise. During a small breakout exercise, they were given a blank Life Magazine cover and told to draw a cover story and headline to represent what the City’s success would look like 10 years from now.
  4. Consensus – They were able to reach a consensus with their new vision by being respectful to the research and each other. Sure, there was debate, but it never got personal or unrealistic.


The resulting vision exercise from the retreat gave them the headline, “Reno Got It Right.” In fact, we brought in our own illustrator to draw on a poster-sized version of the Life Magazine cover. It was a huge accomplishment to have the council both excited and aligned on the new vision of our home city.

While unconventional, Reno’s visioning exercise made it easy for them to see what they want to be in 10 years. With an aligned staff and community, we’re moving forward to develop a plan that is proactive rather than reactive to achieve their vision.

Erica Olsen

Erica Olsen is the COO and a co-founder of OnStrategy. She has developed the format and the user interface for the award-winning OnStrategy on-line strategic management system. In addition, she is the author of Strategic Planning Kit for Dummies, 2nd Edition. Erica has developed and reviewed hundreds of strategic plans for public and private entities across the country and around the world. She is a lecturer at University of Nevada Reno and University of Phoenix. She holds a BA in Communications and an MBA in International Management.