A couple years ago, the American Alliance of Museums introduced the Continuum of Excellence, a “multi-program structure [that] offers opportunities for various levels of assessment, feedback, and recognition that build on one another.” It’s a significant expansion of the Museum Assessment Program and Accreditation process because it now includes additional intermediate steps, including verification of five core documents, including a strategic plan.
Last year I worked with the Historical and Cultural Affairs Division of the State of Delaware to prepare a strategic plan that would meet or exceed AAM’s standards for professional museums. The planning process was more complex than usual because it involved a state government agency that is responsible for over forty historic properties, five museums, a conference center, welcome center, historic preservation, and archaeology and has numerous local partners and affiliates. They also wanted a strong emphasis on team work and a heavy reliance on staff expertise, so the process included large and small group meetings, staff surveys, and community research to create a vision, core values, major audiences, goals, implementation, evaluation, and a budget within eight months. Whew!
I facilitated the meetings and provided general direction, but the staff wrote, revised, and developed the strategic plan from beginning to end while still working their regular jobs. I’m incredibly proud of their accomplishments, and even happier when I received news last week that AAM verified that the strategic plan met its standards of excellence. AAM said that the strategic plan was “well-organized, well-written, and well thought-out” and offered two good suggestions: the metrics were too intangible and difficult to measure and that the plan should indicate which projects may have to be trimmed or eliminated if funding is not available. This strategic plan may be bigger and more complex than necessary for most historic sites, but it could offer some ideas for organization and contents. Again, congratulations to the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs for attaining this level of excellence!