Planning – The Situation Review

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Before looking to the future, it is vital to determine your organization’s current situation (internally and externally) and identify key trends that will impact you and your clients.

External Situation

You need to ask questions about your environment and how it is changing:
• What trends do you see in your clients and your community?
• How are the demographics changing?
• Are your current sources of funding likely to increase, decrease, or stay the same over the next few years?
• How is the broader sector or system that you operate in changing?
You need to think about these questions and the implications of the answers.

Internal Situation

Key questions to answer include:
• What is the current state of your organization?
• What is your financial situation?
• What capacity can your organization bring to bear on your mission?
• What is the organizational culture?
• Are your program/services meeting targets?
You can gather the information to answer these questions with a few tools and exercises:

Key Informant interviews – Identify no more than a dozen people outside your organization who have a good perspective on your community, your clients, and your organization. Develop a few key questions and assign the interviews to Board members. Develop a report on the results.

SWOT Analysis – Have Board members and key staff complete a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis. Add one additional question – “What do you think are the key strategic questions facing this organization?” This allows the team to share their perspectives. Have someone complete a report for the team to review.

Environmental Trends report – Have a senior staff person compile a report on the key trends that are important for strategic planning. A couple of headers will help: demographics, funding/funders, technology, sector, services, etc. This can be a page or two in point form.

Operations Review – Ask senior staff to complete a one-page operations review as a quick reference for everyone – where does the money come from, how is it allocated to program/services/administration and some measure of volume for each program (e.g. number of clients, service units, etc). This can be a one-page table. In addition, add key operational issues, such the need to upgrade technology.

Focus Groups/Surveys – Use focus groups and/or surveys to get input from clients, staff and other stakeholders. Using three questions usually works well:

  1. What does this organization do really well?
  2. What does this organization need to do better?
  3. What would you change over the next few years?

Lastly identify any relevant recent research; for example, a report from your primary funder, an overview of your sector or something addressing a strategic question.  This pre-work for strategic planning will take most organisations six to eight weeks. The quality of your strategic discussions and decisions will depend on how informed you are.

Want to learn more?  Check our next blog, in several days, will look Mission and Vision Statements or click here to connect with us.

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