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Archive for the ‘Strategic Planning’ Category

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.

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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.

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As the nonprofit sector grows, it faces perhaps its greatest challenge in its long history of service to America – an acute leadership shortage. According to a study by the Bridgespan Group, nonprofit organizations will need 640,000 new senior leaders over the next 10 years. That’s 2.4 times today’s number. And the study says that the demand for new leaders could be as high as 1.2 million.

Given the significant management challenges faced by nonprofits, “any kind of leader” will not due. According to Tom Tierney, chairman of the Bridgespan Group:

It’s harder to run a nonprofit than a private company, you have the extra layer of a board of directors – and you’re wearing a lot of different hats. Successful leadership will call for individuals who are value-driven, highly-skilled managers capable to lead, inspire and transform.

It’s apparent that the Ford Foundation understand this new reality. In the August 14th issue of The New York Times, Ford announced that it selected Luis A. Ubiñas, who has worked for the international consulting firm McKinsey & Company for 18 years, as its next leader. Mr. Ubiñas’s appointment has stunned the nonprofit world, which has been speculating about who in the field would succeed Susan V. Berresford, Ford’s influential leader who retires in January. Ford is the nation’s second-largest foundation, with $11 billion in assets.

Increasingly high-profile nonprofit jobs are going to people who have done well in the business world or politics, a reflection of the pressure on charities and foundations to become more accountable.

What is your organization doing to increase the skills of your leaders? Do you have a board committee specifically dedicated to leadership development? What percent of your operating budget are you setting aside for training?

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When leading your staff in a brainstorming session, never stop with the first good idea. The first idea is rarely the best idea, and here’s why: because it was easy to come up with, there’s a good chance that others have already thought of it. Make sure you come out of the meeting with at least four or five ideas, so that you have some flexibility to decide which one to use.

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Strategic planning is strategic thinking! It does not have to be a long, drawn-out process, costing thousands of dollars and taking months of time. Here are twelve easy steps to a winning plan. The most important starting point is to commit to the process.

  1. Scope the process.
  2. Identify your stakeholders.
  3. Draft a suggested mission statement for your organization.
  4. Prepare for your Strategic Planning Committee meeting.
  5. Analyze your environment.
  6. Review and modify, if necessary, your mission.
  7. Define your goals.
  8. Develop strategies – in time – to support each goal.
  9. Draft your plan and solicit feedback.
  10. Review your plan and have it adopted and endorsed.
  11. Evaluate periodically.
  12. Make strategic planning an ongoing process.

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strategic-planThe purpose of strategic planning is to help organizations do a better job. Specifically, strategic planning enables an organization to best focus its energy, to ensure that its members are working toward the same goals, and to assess and adjust the organization’s direction in response to a changing environment. Strategic planning is a disciplined effort aimed to produce fundamental decisions and actions that shape and guide what an organization is, what it does, and why it does it, with a focus on the future.

This process is strategic because it involves determining the best way to respond to circumstances in the organization’s environment, whether or not its circumstances are known in advance. Being strategic means being clear about the organization’s objectives, being aware of resources, and incorporating both into being consciously responsive to a dynamic environment.

This is not a hard process and is not about developing a six-inch thick planning document. It is about thinking — and thinking strategically. It means asking, “Are we doing the right thing?” In answering that question, organizations must consider four key requirements.

  • What are we doing? Have a definite purpose in mind.
  • Where are we doing this? Understand your environment – particularly the forces that affect the fulfillment of that purpose.
  • How are we doing this? Creatively develop effective responses to those forces.
  • How do we know it matters? Build into your plan outcome measurements.

We are pleased to suggest the guide, “Strategic Planning in Smaller Nonprofit Organizations: A Practical Guide for the Process”. This short guide by Jan W. Lyddon, Ph.D., a member of the Nonprofit Leadership and Administration faculty at Western Michigan University, is designed to help board members and staffs of smaller nonprofits develop strategic plans that can help strengthen and sustain their organization’s achievements.

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