Bogged Down in a Strategic Plan That’s Too Unrealistic?

We all know the importance of strategic planning.   But there’s probably a good chance that you have been involved in a strategic planning process that didn’t work.  One that resulted in a beautiful list of goals and objectives—but sat on a shelf, unopened.  Or one that was so detailed, staff was too paralyzed to proceed.   

When working with organizations, our goal is to develop a strategic plan that is visionary but with a simple framework that’s easy to implement.  One that builds consensus and ultimately drives donor investment. And one with
follow-through and measurement built in.

Mistake #1: Creating a Plan that is Not Realistic or Measurable

A plan that is pages and pages of tasks and strategies is okay if you have the staff size and complexity to divide and conquer.  If not, and there are no plans to hire additional staff, your strategic plan will fail. 

We have seen organizations that spend months gathering data and information.  They review other organizations for ideas and intel.  Then they get caught up in thinking about the grand future.  “What if…” becomes their mantra as they try to tackle all of society’s challenges.  Their plan is a beautiful vision for the future, but there’s little that is actionable.

Think about implementation.  And remember, you can only manage what you can measure.  Make sure your plan includes benchmarks and metrics so you can gauge your progress and celebrate success. 

Consider using a GANTT chart or an Excel spreadsheet to track and measure goals.  The more documentation you can provide, the better success you will have.  Tasks should have a time limit and completion should be tracked visually. 

Throughout the implementation, a single staff person or strategic planning task force needs to have oversight.  We recommend either an ED, Director of Operations, or COO—someone at a high enough level who can hold the staff responsible for implementation.  We find that regular check-ins are critical.  Without them, staff will continue with their daily jobs.  They’ll worry about what’s right in front of them, not the long-term vision. 

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Solution #1: A Vision Without a Strategy is Just an Illusion

Develop a plan that is clear on the progression from goals through tasks.  Create the plan with implementation in mind—not just lofty goals.

Have someone on staff be in charge of moving the plan forward.  Create a consistent way to measure progress each monthly.  Establish milestones and have regular check-ins to ensure the plan doesn’t get stuck on its shelf.

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