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.
The following is an excerpt from Four Mistakes Organizations Make when Developing a Strategic Plan. To read the other mistakes and easy-to-implement solutions, download the guide.
Mistake #2: Creating a Plan that Is Too Complicated and Not Executable
If you’re like most nonprofit professionals, you’ve been part of a strategic planning process that ended with a document resembling a corporate annual report. Powerful graphics, professionally written text, and pages and pages of goals, objectives, strategies, and tactics. It looked good, but nothing much came from it.
If a strategic plan is buried at the bottom of a drawer, it’s worthless. No matter how many staff hours were spent on it. We would rather see a final strategic plan that looks like a war map—its pages dog-eared and worn. Notes in every margin. Highlighted areas lighting up the page. That is a strategic plan that can…and is being executed.
A good strategic plan is a shift in mindset. Strategy shouldn’t be limited to a single-day retreat or an annual part of one board meeting. Strategy needs to be a habit, part of your daily work. If you have a plan that’s too complicated or one that isn’t clear on roles and responsibilities, you’ve lost the game even before kickoff.
Solution #2: Stay on the Same Page
Organizations often get caught up in the semantics of a strategic plan. What’s the difference between a goal, a strategy, and an objective? Why do we need so many categories and who is ultimately responsible for carrying out each of them?
Again, think simple. Create clear definitions at the beginning of the process and then constantly refer back to them throughout the process. Define the progression from Goals to Tasks.