Strategic Planning is a necessity for all organizations, particularly small community-based initiatives. In this article, the author discussed how to develop a first-class strategic plan with a limited budget.
Negotiating the complexities of a changing organization requires a tool that’s practical and easily administered. The strategic planning process must provide a road map, but it shouldn’t he so daunting that it’s easier to circumvent the process than engage in it.
Nonprofit leaders often fret over the time frame for their plan. Should it be one year, three years, or five years? The answer is that time frames shouldn’t hinder the process. Rather than having the process become intimidating and paralyzing, engage in a continuous planning process, turning to this model whenever faced with a critical issue. If you can’t solve the problem using this process within a reasonable time frame, then you haven’t set the stage properly for its solution.
Here are the critical components to a cost-effective strategic plan.
Identify the biggest problem.
Focus on one priority at a time. What is most pressing? Get everyone on the same page. This synergy is critical given the time constraints faced by boards and staff. If the agenda is too complicated, inertia will determine the outcome. This initial step needs to create success and alignment.
Ask yourself what might occur if the problem is resolved and what might happen if the problem continues.
Your answers will highlight the importance of the decisions you’re making. If participants are convinced that the process will solve the problem, they’re more likely to dig in and act with conviction. Remember that happy people live longer. Make the process fun.
Identify your organization’s values.
Make this a priority. Your values create your brand and provide direction. Your culture determines your integrity, and integrity facilitates the outcome. Be sure all participants have a passion for the organization’s values.
Review your vision.
How did you get here, and where might the organization be if everything you envisioned were realized? This vision should be the engine that inspires the organization. It is the existential void that is filled when the destination is reached. Don’t become preoccupied with goals at this juncture. This is an opportunity to push the organization to another level. Many organizations skip this step and pursue “reasonable” objectives. This compromise won’t create the tension necessary to propel the organization forward.
Consider how your vision benefits your primary stakeholders.
Categorize stakeholders by level of importance. This review needn’t be a drawn-out process. If you have to dig too deeply to identify a group of stakeholders, they’re probably not worth the effort and resources you’re expending on them. If there’s no discernable benefit to your stakeholders, review your vision and assumptions.
Explore the impediments to implementing your plan.
What issues restrict your ability to move forward? What barriers block the organization’s ability to effect change? What low-hanging fruit can you easily harvest? Focusing on this area is an excellent way to demonstrate commitment without the cost of a major initiative. It creates an immediate sense of change and offers instant gratification to your team. Be bold. Remember that if you’re too careful, nothing good or bad will ever happen to you.
Examine your key indicators.
How do you know you’re on the right path? What benchmarks provide the necessary feedback? If you don’t clearly identify these indicators, the organization will lack direction and may never solve the problem at hand. As Mark Twain said, “Additional problems are the offspring of poor solutions.” Be close to the action, and gather salient information regarding the problem so that you can implement pro-active rather than reactive solutions.
Analyze your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
Take a sincere look at your organization, and come up with a self-assessment that allows you to move on. You’ll undoubtedly find considerable consensus among your planning team. People know in their hearts what’s good and bad about their organization.
Create opportunities for your organization to reach the key indicators.
Be clear about how you plan to manage your people resources and other assets. When you find a gap between current performance and your vision, make a plan to close that gap, and get everyone involved in designing and implementing the plan. Be transparent about the steps necessary to reach the destination.
Just do it.
Don’t put the plan on the shelf. This is your best thinking on the issue. Challenge yourself to implement the plan and manage the risk. All too often plans are an exercise in demonstrating
Source: Smergut, P. (2005). Strategic planning on a budget. Nonprofit World. 23(4), 14-17.