Planning Your Strategic Planning
So you understand the point of strategic planning. You’re gearing up to actually start. This post is all about pulling it off.
Our biggest obstacle at first was an undefined goal and process. The problem with doing this blind is that it’s too easy to get distracted, waste time, and become overwhelmed. As I wrote before, the payoff is in the journey. But imagine a two day trip that takes a 800-mile detour and lasts three weeks. Even though you might get there, you’ll probably be cranky and won’t enjoy the destination.
Starting with a process means you set a goal (the plan) and draw a line to get there. Here’s the process we started with, based on the suggestions of the SCORE consultants.
Establish the rules, process, terminology, schedule, and so on.
- Preliminary Ground Rules and Assumptions
- Preliminary Schedule (what you’re reading now)
- Preliminary Outline
- Glossary of Terms
- Mission (what your organization exists to accomplish)
- Vision (what you hope to do and become)
- SWOTs defined
Build support throughout the organization and community by giving everyone an opportunity to participate, as well as reducing the magnitude of the process through delegation. Identify the main strategic issues facing your organization and focus everyone on these.
- Individual Team Deliberations
- Strategic Issues defined
- Individual Team Assignments of Planning Process Areas
Begin discussing how you will address the strategic issues. The organization should be fired up by this point, asking difficult questions and straining minds to find effective strategies.
- Strategies Development
- Preliminary Goals Identified
- Ground Rules and Assumptions finalized
- Final Mission
Once strategies are developed, the plan begins to take shape. The organization begins to understand the financial needs and the future of the programs.
- Final Strategic Plan Outline
- Preliminary Financial Plan (5 yr)
- Preliminary Draft of Strategic Issues, Strategies and Goals, Preliminary Objectives and Programs Defined
The many components begin to come together.
- Revised Financial Plan (5 yr)
- Final Draft of Strategic Issues
- Strategies, Goals, Objectives and Programs
- Check for consistent vertical integration of all inputs to Strategic Plan
Down to business: wrapping up the financial plans, beginning to draft the strategic plan, and clearing up the rest of the discussions.
- Final Financial Plan (5 yr)
- Draft Strategic Plan
- Resolution of Outstanding Strategic Plan Issues
Everyone gets an opportunity to review and provide feedback on the newly drafted plan.
- Distribute Copies of Strategic Plan
The destination has been reached… now the work begins.
- Board Acceptance
- Implementation of Completed Strategic Plan
After the Planning
One of the biggest complaints I’ve seen about strategic plans is that they frequently collect dust on a shelf while the organization continues about its business as it always has. This suggests to me two things: first, the organization wasn’t really buying into the plan because it’s hard to ignore such investment if you agree with it; second, there is no champion of the plan to keep attention focused on it. An executive director, CEO, or President needs to force the organization back into the plan. Meetings, evaluations, proposals, etc. should be considered in the context of the strategic issues and strategies from the plan. All staff, board members, and major donors should be fully aware of the strategic issues and strategies of the organization. And once the plan is implemented, the organization must continue to evaluate and revise it—because you’ll be doing it all over again very soon.