A Holistic Approach to Strategy & Culture with the County of San Bernardino

Dec 20, 2019

The County of San Bernardino’s (CSB) Purchasing Department consists of four independent but loosely integrated divisions—Procurement, Printing, Mail Services and Logistics.  Although each division is successful in its own right, when given the charge of developing a department-wide strategic plan, the department leader seized the opportunity to also integrate succession planning and addressing what she understood was essential for the department’s ongoing success: a culture shift.

The department’s leadership team of 12, representing a larger team of 70, set out to tackle the department’s strategic shift, direction, culture shift and preliminary succession planning in their first planning session with OnStrategy’s Lorna Shepard and Katie Champagne.  Engaging together through the conviction that “we will improve as an organization versus a division” generated new opportunities for the entire team because of their willingness to struggle with the challenging topic in all/most/many organizations—Culture Shift.

CSB’s purchasing department knew ensuring a race-ready strategic plan for FY 2020 meant addressing culture shift and planning for the leadership of the future. Here’s how the team approached preparing their plan:

  • The leadership team tackled culture so the larger team can think strategically about department goals and priorities beginning next fiscal year.
  • A pragmatic and productive planning session generated ideas around cross-functionality in divisions, ways to increase efficiency through collaboration, opportunities for succession planning outside of divisions and mentoring opportunities and skill development in capable employees. 
  • Interestingly, but not surprisingly, division leaders also realized their division’s strengths and weaknesses and opportunities for effective change were more similar than they thought.   

Culture shift doesn’t happen in a single planning session and we all know it’s not the easiest topic to broach.  However, SBC’s purchasing department is proof that conversations around difficult topics can be started and that there is time, though the planning process, to make necessary changes to move organizations toward strategic success.



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