Purpose – This article presents a hands-on example of how the Sydney Conservatorium of Music developed a new strategy to create public value in the lead up to its centenary celebrations in 2015. Design/methodology/approach – Traditional research methods, such as semi-structured interviews (Qu & Dumay, 2011), alongside a strategic workshop incorporating a group discussion method called ‘The future, backwards’ are utilized to canvass the knowledge and divergent diverse views of employees, who would be impacted by the strategy, and to identify both the congruence and divergence of their views in order to help shape the value the strategic plan creates. The theoretical underpinning of the process is based on narrative (Weick & Browning, 1986) and the micro-sociological theory (Westley, 1990). Findings – The process used here offers an insight into how strategic management can be developed in a public sector organization to help visualize its public value. Implications – The process fills a gap in the academic literature and provides information for strategic practice by developing insights into how strategic management can be successfully employed in a public sector organization. Originality/value – The process provides an example of a public sector based ‘value chain’ demonstrating how a public sector organization developed and articulated a public value creating strategy.