I can almost hear the eye rolls as the disenchanted read the words ‘strategic plan.’ I too have been involved in many a strategic plan that has gone awry. On the other hand, I’ve had the good fortune to be involved in great strategic planning with amazing results. It all hinges on the planning exercise and follow through.
Let’s use the analogy of a road trip. The mission is the final destination, the strategic plan is the route that you will use to get there. If you don’t know where you are going it will be impossible to set the route, however; you are also unlikely to arrive at your destination without a road map to get there. Both are critical.
Continuing with this analogy, bad strategic planning experiences involve difficulty with establishing a destination (mission) or, difficulty with deciding on a route (strategic goals).
For more information on evaluating your mission please see Mission Critical: Do you know where you are going? Generally problems with mission are:
- The destination is not far enough away (trying to get next door)
- The destination is too vague (we want to go west)
- Not everyone agrees on the destination
Changing the mission statement does not have to be a part of the planning process. If the mission statement is still compelling, there is no reason to change it. If budget or time constraints make the process of redoing the mission statement (and possibly vision and values statements) and creating a 3 to 5-year plan unmanageable, agencies can break the process into two separate parts.
There is no perfect way to do strategic planning. What works well for one agency may not be right for another. The general process should involve gathering information from key stakeholders, mapping the journey, and sharing the map with stakeholders. Who the stakeholders are; how information is gathered, and the rest of the process is different for every agency. It depends on many things including how obvious the route is, and how much money the agency can invest in strategic planning.
A very simple strategic plan may involve one staff or volunteer compiling information about the wants and needs of stakeholders (clients, staff, volunteers, donors, funders, public) and providing feedback to the board about the findings. A very complex strategic plan can involve external consultants and subject matter experts conducting a full literature review, on-line surveys, key informant interviews, focus groups and large group planning sessions. Whatever the process, the final report should provide compelling information about how the agency will allocate its financial and human resources.
A good strategic planning consultant should be able to offer a variety of options for planning that consider your agency’s unique needs and its budget. The next article in the ‘Self Care for Non-Profits’ series will explore some of the techniques you might use, or you might contract out in order to create a strategic plan.
Remember that the final plan is not only a great guide for the organization, it is a public facing communication tool that helps everyone understand what your agency does and where it is going. It can be used to explain difficult decisions. Most importantly it will bring like-minded people to your agency including members, clients, staff and donors.
This would be a good time to take your plan out and ask “are we following this roadmap?” If not, it is time to dust it off and begin to refer to it or to begin the process of crafting a better one that you will follow.
Sandra Dunham is the sole-proprietor of Streamline New Perspective Solutions
Streamline New Perspective Solutions offers management consulting services for non-profit organizations. Please visit www.streamlinenps.ca