As a strategy consultant, I facilitate strategic planning processes with a wide variety of organizations, including businesses, nonprofits, and churches. Every process looks somewhat different based on organizational needs. The pandemic has caused great uncertainty and short term thinking. As individuals and organizations are thinking more long term, I wanted to share some lessons learned about strategic planning to help your efforts:
- Strategic planning is a wonderful tool for engagement. As you develop a process, intentionally provide opportunities to invite people to provide input. When people feel like they are being listened to, they are more likely to feel positive about the organization and will be more engaged. Err on the side of involving too many people in the data gathering process.
- Strategic planning establishes and communicates a common purpose, vision, and priorities. The plan articulates a organization’s priorities internally and externally. There are always too many ideas for any organization to implement, and the strategic planning process helps identify the most important priorities to devote time and resources to.
- After listening to stakeholders, ensure your process is designed to gain shared commitment to goals and strategies. There is a time for top down decision-making, but remember that building consensus around key strategic issues and solutions for addressing them will lead to greater buy in.
- Communicating the vision is an important, ongoing effort. When employees understand the priorities, and clear goals are identified, they will work together to accomplish the goals.
- As much as possible, make sure the outcomes you establish are measurable. Are you using SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timebound) goals?
- Planning is easier than implementation. Some organizations spend more time planning than implementing. They worry about how to put the plan document into the correct format. Plans look different based on the needs of the organization. Although the planning process is time intensive, the most important and difficult work is the implementation of the plan. Be sure to think through how the plan will be implemented, monitored, reviewed, and adapted when necessary.
- Encourage creativity and dream big. People will naturally base their plans on previous experiences. But the past may not be the best guide for the future. Reflect on whether incremental or transformational change is necessary to reach the desired results.
The suggestions above have been modified from Dr. Tad Dickel’s book “Strategic planning for Catholic parishes.”
We provide strategic planning implementation for many types of organizations. How can we help you? Please contact us for more information.