Now is the time to be thinking about your team’s goals for the next fiscal year. Fall is the common season for boards and staff to prepare for the future with a strategic planning retreat. Before you dive in and book your retreat, it’s advantageous to ask yourself a few questions in advance to ensure a successful process and implementation. As Ray Covey said, “Begin with the end in mind.”
What is the Honest Assessment of Where We Are?
It’s important to begin any strategic planning process by determining your current situation. Did your team work the last plan you had? What types of things did you say you were going to do but didn’t? Why not? How did you celebrate your successes? On a scale of 0-10, where are you in relation to where you want to be?
What Type of Professional Facilitator Do We Need?
It is important for participants in a planning process to have a “guide” who isn’t their paid or volunteer “leader.” Your job description requires you to be biased; your volunteers are (hopefully) biased. You can benefit from an outside facilitator who knows your industry but is not a stakeholder in your organization. An experienced facilitator will guide your team through a proven process to get from where you are to where you want to go. Ask your peers for recommendations. If you’re not in a financial place to afford one this year, barter with another organization to trade services this year and budget for a professional facilitator next year.
What Deliverable Do We Need?
Do you need a new 3-yr strategic plan to work toward your vision? Do you already have a 3-year plan and you now need a 12-month work plan or implementation guide? Are you already working a plan but need to review progress, update strategies, and/or benchmark the metrics? The type of deliverable and level of detail you want will dictate length of the event. If you need more than one deliverable, start with a retreat for the high-level broad goals first.
What “Feel” Do We Want?
Whether you leave town or not, at least get out of your usual meeting room. People think and behave differently when they are in a different space. Consider different environments that might be most conducive to your culture or the culture you’re trying to create. Are you going for a rustic/nature area or something more elegant and restorative? Will it be formal or casual? Will spouses or other guests be invited for any portions? Will you include team building activities or outings to help the participants bond? Organizations that think this out in advance can craft just the right setting.
How Do We Ensure This Plan Actually Gets Implemented?
I hear so many disappointing stories about planning retreats that end with a great document but then no follow-through. The way to make sure your plan gets implemented is to decide in advance how you will measure progress. How often will your plan be an agenda item at your regular meetings? Will participants be expected to bring the plan to meetings? What are the key performance indicators that must be measured to gauge progress? Who will be the one to call on people to give progress reports? Are your committees being assigned the right things to help the staff and board achieve the goals? Does everything fulfill the mission and work toward achieving the vision?
Ask and answer these 5 questions before you begin and you’re more likely to plan the right retreat.