Over the course of two weeks, I have consulted with several organizations. They all had this in common. The need to slow down and commit to going through the strategic planning process. I know, you are focused on the day-to-day. It just does not seem to be enough time to fit planning in an already hectic schedule. The words themselves, strategic planning, brings up thoughts of hard work, conflicting agendas, and endless meetings.
It’s OK. I’ve been there. You know it’s important. You know you have to do it.
Let me just say, there is wisdom in taking the time to plan. The process of creating the strategic plan re-focuses or re-affirms the organization’s mission, vision, and goals. But most importantly, the strategic planning process creates a sense of forward momentum. It encourages the Board and Staff to foresee the future they seek for their organization and develop a plan that is optimistic.
Strategic planning can provide enormous benefits. It can:
- Bring clarity and agreement on mission and vision: Agreement on mission is essential. Without this agreement, an organization cannot be effective. The strategic planning process can provide an invaluable opportunity for discussion and consensus among staff, board, and volunteers. Defining a shared vision on where the organization is headed and then planning based on that desired outcome is the essence of strategic planning.
- Help organizations prepare for the future: As Winston Churchill once said, “Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.” A strategic plan provides a roadmap to achieve the desired future for your organization. The planning process prioritizes the work to be done. Strategic planning facilitates making short-term decisions based on long-term implications. Most importantly, a strategic plan provides a series of agreements about what needs to happen. It is a living document. So that when change occurs, the plan can be adapted to accommodate the changes.
- Help organizations anticipate and manage change: Planning allows your organization to anticipate change and prepare for it. Your organization instead is no longer just reacting to change.
- Improve the decision-making processes: With a strategic plan in place, day-to-day decision making and problem-solving will be directly related to long-range and short-term goals. Planning reduces stress by making decisions easier. When choices are made within the context of a strategic framework, your organization’s direction is clearly defined. If there is no strategic framework, the future of your organization is in the hands of whoever is making choices. Strategic decision making and problem-solving assure that your organization’s vision will be achieved.
- Align the board and staff: When individuals are focused on the same goal or outcome, they feel a certain amount of synergy and often set aside differences, help each other, and become invested in a common purpose. This is the basis of a high-performance team. An organization’s mission cannot be achieved without board members and staff who agree on a common direction and are committed to achieving success for their organization. Group interaction around a cause often fuels individual commitment.
- Identify existing strengths in the organization: Stakeholders feedback conducted in conjunction with the strategic plan indicates how well your organization is meeting expectations. It can also show you where your efforts are paying off and what to celebrate.
A strategic plan is an important investment for your organization to make. However, it does have limitations. A strategic plan is not a wishlist, a report card or a marketing tool. It is not a magic bullet or a quick cure for everything that ails your organization. Especially if the plan winds up on the shelf. But, if monitored probably and your team is aligned on how to best achieve the goals, your organization will be better able to make an ongoing, significant impact.
I hope this helps. Your feedback is appreciated.
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