Posted by danosky | Posted in The Philanthropy Therapist | Posted on 01-03-2012
How many of you have strategic plans are sitting on shelves gathering dust? I’m almost afraid to ask. They are what I refer to as the Teflon Plans. Lots of good ideas and words, but nothing sticks. For a plan to be relevant, it must be tied to actionable items that can be measured toward a meaningful goal. However, very few plans are set up that way.
I am often asked to facilitate Board retreats, and I enjoy doing this immensely. There is always so much energy and enthusiasm within these events. The creativity flows and the problem-solving goes into high gear; lots of great recommendations and good intentions come forth. Everyone compliments each other at the end and often leave experiencing that kumbayah moment. Everyone goes back to their lives, the plan gets typed up and delivered then sits somewhere on that shelf gathering you know what.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
It is said that life happens while you are planning. That is true. Yet, planning is still critical if you are to have a blueprint for moving your organization forward. The strategic planning process is one that helps an organization crystallize its vision for the future and identify the specific strategies it must undertake to realize that vision. The planning process should be designed to achieve the following outcomes:
- Establish Board consensus around a shared vision
- Establish long-term objectives and priorities
- Outline the strategies you will implement to achieve your vision within three to five years
- Assess the need and resources required to build capacity and infrastructure
- Identify the short-term priorities and tactics to undertake each year that will move you strategically toward that vision
- Implement outcome measures by which to assess progress
These principles work even if you decide to hold a retreat that isn’t necessarily about developing a strategic plan. The ultimate goal is to ensure that everyone is on the same page, seeing the same vision while becoming willing to work in tandem and taking very specific steps to help ensure that you arrive where you want to be. The process is true for those who are trying to build a sense of team among Board members, address issues of governance, or help members of the Board become more comfortable and productive with fund raising.
The real success of a planning retreat, however, is how well you plan before the retreat and what you do after the retreat.
Before the retreat, be sure you are planning to “plan.” Understand the issues you are going to address and that everyone involved in the planning process has had a chance to share those issues in advance. If using a professional consultant or facilitator, they may recommend different methodologies for doing that. Sometimes the best methodology is one that includes an organizational or needs assessment. Other times, you can arrive at understanding key issues by asking three simple questions: what is working well, what is not working well, and what should be done differently?
Once the planning process is over, be sure that the action steps you have identified are well defined with measurable outcomes that move your organization toward its ultimate goal. Again, these can take a number of forms: well-laid out strategies that have defined timelines and outcomes, or a clear set of goals where business plans or mini-plans will be developed and measured. Don’t be afraid to assign defined areas of a plan to a specific Board committee which has the responsibility to report progress at every meeting.
The bottom line is that if you are about to invest the time and energy in planning, make sure your plan is going to stick, not slide around like a scrambled egg on Teflon.