December 16, 2015
What is strategic planning? And what do you need to know about the process to determine how a strategic plan would benefit your organization? How detailed do we need to be with the budgeting?
Strategic planning is a systematic process where you identify why your organization exists, its vision for serving customers, employees, and local citizens, what you want to achieve, and how you’re going to do so. At each stage of the process you will involve various people and groups, as this is where the power of strategic planning comes into play.
Does strategic planning sound like a long, drawn-out process? Well, it can take a while to do it right. What’s the old saying? “Anything worth doing, is worth doing right.” Benefits of developing a strategic plan:
There are many approaches to strategic planning; however, there are a few common threads among most plans. The predominant starting point is a solid understanding of the organization. There are a variety of ways to understand the pressures and dynamics affecting an organization and its future.
Still answering the “Who are we?” question, most strategic plans include a SWOT analysis to explore the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats of the organization. With the Technology of Participation (ToP)®* Strategic Planning method, we also look at the benefits and dangers of success (potential outcomes to plan for). See Addendum on the ToP Strategic Planning methods.
Once the planning team has a good handle on the organizational identity and environment, the next couple of steps have to do with setting goals, objectives, and strategic directions and developing action plans to accomplish them.
We’re not suggesting that strategic planning is an easy process. It requires a strong commitment from your executive level and governing board plus the allocation of resources such as staff time, hiring a professional facilitator, technology, meeting expenses, and a facility with adequate space.
Timing is important. The end of the year or the beginning of a new one are great times to take a forward look. Now is the time. However, if you’re in a crises mode, strategic planning is not appropriate. Take care of the crises first then consider creating a plan for the future.
It is important to know who makes the decisions at each stage of the process and when you need to build consensus. Making sure you’ve included all stakeholders will help you create a plan that has wide support.
People have a tendency to shy away from a long-term planning process because the world is changing so rapidly and it’s difficult to know what’s coming down the pike. A good plan will include a few contingencies and a back-up plan if the original goals get thwarted.
Another reason people think strategic planning is so difficult is because it is challenging to forecast revenue and expenses. It is not the function of a strategic plan to have detailed financial projections. Those come afterwards when the finance people can take a look at the goals outlined in the plan and apply financial reasoning and planning to them. Sometimes the finance department can put a wet blanket on the enthusiasm of the planning team, but with honest dialogue and understanding on both sides, the objectives and financial projections can come together.
The final plan will include specific goals and objectives, and clearly defined action steps that identify who is responsible for each action item, what resources are needed, when each action item is due, and how you will monitor progress and measure success.
Utilizing the services of a professional facilitator can help you navigate through the strategic planning process.
Strategic thinking helps you:
Strategic planning is a series of steps to:
Implementation is where you take action until the strategic plan is achieved, including:
*Technology of Participation (ToP)® is a registered trademark of the Institute of Cultural Affairs. ToP Facilitation Methods and Strategic Planning Methods are offered worldwide by ToP trainers.
Key Outcomes of the ToP Participatory Strategic Planning Process:
|Step 1:||Work with assigned representatives of the organization and conduct key informant interviews to discuss needs and expectations. Draft a process design plan to be presented for approval or adjusted as necessary. This is completed prior to the planning event.|
|Step 2:||Conduct an environmental scan or trends analysis to launch the strategic planning process. This provides a way for the group to become familiar with the background of the organization or historical and current trends very quickly.|
|Step 3:||Establish a practical vision of how the organization’s mission will be achieved over the next three to five years. It provides structure for what the planning participants want to see in place in the coming future.|
|Step 4:||Identify blocks or barriers, i.e. underlying root causes that could prevent the organization from achieving its vision. This step helps ensure the blocks or barriers are addressed in order for the practical vision to be implemented.|
|Step 5:||Make informed choices about what to do, referred to as strategic directions. These choices are in broad areas and will help prioritize what are the most important, effective, cost efficient, and expedient ways to accomplish the 3- to 5-year vision.|
|Step 6:||Identify first year accomplishments for each strategic direction and prepare 90-day implementation plans by getting down to the details of who, what, and when the elements of the strategic directions will be achieved. These 90-day plans will be reviewed regularly by those implementing them and new plans will be created each quarter.|
|Step 7:||Monitor and evaluate the progress and impact of the strategic plan. Progress is reviewed and monitored monthly, quarterly, or semi-annually. Each year new accomplishments are identified for each strategic direction.|
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About the AuthorAnne Neal has provided executive coaching, strategic planning and other high-stakes facilitation, and workforce/management training to businesses, non-profits, and government agencies/departments for 21 years. Her primary emphasis is to support individuals and organizations to optimize their gifts and talents and create job/life satisfaction starting with where they are.