The process associated with strategic planning often overshadows and undermines the usefulness of strategic planning as a tool.
Overemphasizing process has led many to forget that effective strategic planning can help an organization:
- Reaffirm or reinvent its “core business” amid given changing conditions
- Make deliberate decisions to ensure success
- Set the few, specific goals that will guide how the organization does its work and allocates its resources to specific results over the next few years
Most organizations do not have time for a months-long planning process; their work is too urgent. This means that the strategic planning process needs to be efficient and intensive. Meaningful strategic planning involves three discreet, deliberate steps which, even in the largest of organizations, don’t need more than a week to complete.
Step 1: Analysis
Consider the trends and issues that impact your work, collect relevant data about your product or service, and fully understand your audience or customer (i.e., recipients of services, members, donors, and/ or volunteers), and analyze the information – what does it mean for your organization moving forward?
Step 2: Decisions
Make strategic decisions on the strategic issues that emerge from the analysis and then define the specific results you will achieve (i.e., your strategic goals – not a laundry list of everything you will do, but what will result from your actions). Next, determine most efficient, effective, and efficacious methods you will use to achieve your goals (i.e., what will work, given limited resources of time and money).
Step 3: Alignment
Coordinate resources (staff, systems and dollars) to support your decisions and achieve your goals. Given the strategic plan, what should your organization stop doing, start doing, or change? Do staff and volunteers have the right skills to achieve goals and are resources allocated to support their accomplishment? Remember, if you don’t align your organization around your strategic plan, nothing will change and you will have wasted your time and effort!
More time, more discussion, and more input (i.e., more process) do not necessarily result in a group making better strategic decisions. Harness the power of strategic planning as a tool by focusing on high-quality analysis, being thoughtful and deliberate in decision-making and goal-setting, and following through by aligning your resources and your strategic plan.