What? Another Strategic Plan?
Why should your organization undertake a strategic planning effort, especially if the previous endeavor resulted in a document that sits in a desk drawer? If the work helps an organization to increase the impact of its work — to accomplish more of its mission — by helping leaders be intentional about priorities and proactive in motivating others to achieve them, then by all means the effort is well worth it.
Michael Allison and Jude Kaye, authors of Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Organizations (Wiley, 2015), point out that strategic planning is both a leadership tool and a management tool. The process is systematic, builds alignment and commitment and guides the acquisition and allocation of resources. At the same time, there are several things that strategic planning is not:
- It does not predict the future.
- It is not a substitute for leadership’s ongoing judgment.
- It is not a math problem — there is no right answer.
- Although it is structured and systematic, strategic planning is not completely linear.
Successful strategic planning does improve the focus of an organization:
- It generates an explicit understanding of an organization’s mission, strategy and organizational values among staff, board members and external constituencies.
- It provides a blueprint for action based on current information.
- It establishes broad milestones with which to monitor achievements and assess results.
- It improves the process of people working together.
And how can you help ensure that your strategic plan remains relevant?
- Focus on the most important issues — not all of them — during the strategic planning process.
- Don’t let yourself avoid the difficult or sensitive questions.
- Produce an actual document, even if it is just a few pages long. Remember that clarity rather than length determines usefulness.
- Are the operational implications clear? Be sure the strategic plan is linked to annual work plans and the annual budget.