This post looks at five key lessons learned from working on strategic planning with many small to medium sized not for profits.
1. Do the upfront work on the external environment and your organization.
This will ground the strategic plan. Without it, the plan is based the opinion of the people around the table, which may be high risk. You will miss some important issues.
2. The Board needs to own it.
One of the key governance functions of the Board is to provide direction and the strategic plan is a vital governance document. If your Board is not committed to the strategic plan the odds of success are low.
3. Ensure a clear mission and vision.
If the group does not have a clear mission and a shared vision, the strategic plan will be confused and incoherent. You will not have a plan that aligns the organization’s efforts.
4. Make sure it addresses the critical strategic issues facing the organization.
The key issues must be dealt with as part of strategic planning. You can decide to keep options open (often at some cost) but you cannot ‘not decide’.
5. Get a facilitator/strategic planner.
No matter how good you are, you can’t facilitate and advocate at the same time and keep the trust of the group. Get an outsider who can ask the tough questions.
There are many ways to do strategic planning. Take the time to find a process that will work for your organization. A strategic plan is a tool – make it work for you.
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