Lots of businesses and nonprofit organizations engage in strategic planning every 2-3 years. What I know is that many of them are not very strategic. And worst of all, after all the money and efforts, the majority of plans fail.
So what happened? There was no commitment or engagement from the entire organization. The traditional way of doing strategic planning was a small group, a subset of the organization would meet once a month and work on the vision, mission, values, and strategy plus goals and objectives, budget projections. Sometimes they would interview or survey their employees, customers, stakeholders and those they serve. Then the consultant would leave and they’d spend the next 6-12 months figuring out how they would implement the strategies. Then they would edit and publish the plan and maybe they would distribute the plan to their stakeholders. Many times it ended up in a drawer collecting dust. Or a leader would be assigned to champion the plan and spend their time trying to implement change to no avail. UUGGGHH!!!!
So what is wrong with this picture? We did it this way for years… OMG!!!
- It takes too long. Our world is changing so fast that the longer you take to plan the more likely that the world has changed and whatever you were thinking is no longer valid. We have gotten the process down to 4 one-day retreats and deliver the plan with 48 hours.
- Complexity. The old school leadership model that only a small group of people in the organization can think strategically or only leadership should be involved in the planning process. Well, the world has gotten so complex, you can’t afford not to engage everyone in your organization, everyone that will be responsible for implementing the plan in creating the plan. The world is too complex. No one person has all the pieces and can figure it out alone. It takes the group.
- Engagement. Including everyone in the planning process is an efficient and effective way to create and implement the plan. First, participation builds in the commitment. Second, each person in your organization has a piece of the truth. Your front line people, your receptionist, your maintenance staff have valuable information about your organization. They are a valuable resource and critical to the implementation of the plan as well. Include them. For over 20 years I have been facilitating inclusive strategic planning. We have included everyone. For many years we did community planning and would engage all sectors of the community in the process. It was great seeing grandmothers, business owners, funders, and youth sitting at the same table talking about the issues and how to address them in their community. It’s the same with my organizational and small business clients. Third, you eliminate the need for a rollout or a sales job to get everyone on board. They are on board because of their contribution. Fourth, people understand the changes and the intention or logic behind them and even if they are difficult they know how the changes contribute to the big picture that they helped create.
- Insuring Implementation. Implementation is a pet peeve of mine. I have always included an implementation plan that is practical and grounded in as much reality as the organization is willing to hold so they can move from their current reality to their vision of the future. We have a planning system that insures implementation and accountability in a participatory and engaging way. Our implementation plans give leaders a comprehensive management structure. That structure can be used to run staff meetings, performance appraisals, manage change and keep the vision and goals in front of everyone in the organization. It is so simple and yet so underutilized.
What can you do to save your strategic plan? Here are 3 things you can do right away:
- Revisit your plan with your team and key stakeholders so you can update it with their ideas
- Create an annual plan and 90-day action plans from your strategic plan so you are actively implementing it
- Hold your team accountable for the results of the plan by tracking your goals and results and performance metrics consistently
If you have questions, if you are thinking about your next strategic plan, if you need support with updating your current plan… Let’s talk about what can be done given your specific situation.