One of the classes I was assigned to teach at summer Institute was on strategic planning. It got me thinking and doing some research on strategic planning – what works and what doesn’t. Here are five critical success factors I’ve learned by facilitating strategic planning and participating in it.
1. Don’t Drag Out The Process! Some research I found suggests that a strategic plan should take six to nine months to accomplish. Frankly, I think that is what produces long groans when anyone mentions planning! I’d suggest that a two-day session is the most, and I really prefer one day. Why? Because dragging it out loses momentum, enthusiasm, and wastes valuable time at each session getting back up to speed. Commit to a short, intense, results-focused planning session.
2. Don’t Do A Lot Of Research BEFORE The Planning Session. I have found that this often results in a desire to work on the research instead of starting with a clean slate that allows for creative, out-of-the-box thinking. After priorities have been set, there is a purpose to the research.
3. 5 and 10 Year Plans Are Not Realistic. Really, in today’s environment, how realistic is it to plan for five years out? Things are constantly changing, and besides, when do you get serious about addressing a five year plan? Yep – 4 years, 10 months and 12 days in…
4. Have An Agenda For Planning. Here’s what I use when facilitating a planning session:
- Vision. Where do we want to be in five years? What do we want to have accomplished?
- Mission. Will our mission statement serve the vision? Does it tell us how we will get there?
- Review. Review the previous plan. Celebrate accomplishments. Renew enthusiasm for undone priorities if they are still relevant.
- Priorities. What are the 3-5 priorities the board and staff should focus on in the next 12-18 months to address the vision?
- Action Plans. Write skeletal action plans for each priority with key activities, ownership, and target dates.
- Next Steps. Agree to flesh out the action plans before the next board meeting to present to the full board for acceptance.
5. Keep The Plan Alive! Set board and staff meeting agendas to review current status of activities within the plan of work. Identify problems when they are molehills instead of mountains. Review and revise the plan as unexpected issues arise.