Starting Strategic Planning: Planning for a Plan I

Sections of this topic

    In this post, we’ll discuss one of the most important phases in strategic planning – a phase that far too often is forgotten, resulting in plans that sit untouched on shelves. The plan for a plan should be developed by a Planning Committee and should answer 15 important questions — do this before the planners start identifying goals to go in the strategic plan. This post (Part 1) is part of a 5-Part series and each Part will review 3 questions. Part 1 reviews questions 1-3.

    Not doing a plan for a plan is like going on a trip without a map and then complaining that you didn’t get where you wanted to go. Planners have the illusion that the sooner they imagine some goals and get those goals on paper, the sooner they’ll achieve those goals, as well. So that’s where they start – fantasizing about goals. Wrong.

    Or, far too often, inexperienced facilitators and planners will start planning by fantasizing about words on a mission or vision statement. While that can be creative and exhilarating, it rarely results in a useful plan. (But it does stimulate the creative juices – and it can make Board members, who otherwise are usually detached from the organization, quickly feel useful in the planning process 🙂

    Here are the first three questions the plan for a plan should address:

    1. Are We Really Ready for Strategic Planning?

    • Does our organization have enough money to pay bills for at least the next 3 months? Don’t use strategic planning to generate quick revenue. It won’t do that. Instead, focus on cash flows.
    • Does our organization have a history of not implementing plans? If so, you need leadership development more than planning. Learn how to build in performance management to do what you say you’re going to do.
    • Are our Board members willing to be involved in planning sessions? If they want only a one-meeting retreat, then don’t consider it strategic planning. It’s a brainstorming session.
    • Can our Board members and other leaders make decisions together? If not, planning could be a nightmare. Do Board development, not planning.

    2. Who’s on Our Planning Committee?

    The job of this Committee is to ensure a high-quality planning process, not to do the planning. Its members might hire a facilitator, do the plan for a plan, and review various tangible results from planning, such as the drafted Plan. The Committee should at least include:

    • Chair of the Board
    • Chief Executive Officer
    • Leader of each of the major products or program
    • Someone who’s been in a well-done strategic planning process before

    3. Why Are We Doing Strategic Planning?

    There are different reasons for doing planning and each of those reasons could require a different approach to planning. Typical reasons include:

    • It’s just that time of year. (The best time to do planning is the middle of the fiscal year in time to produce a Board-approved budget for next year.)
    • Our organization has had recurring major issues among Board members and employees. Often, this is the result of their not being on the same page – planning can get them all on the same page.
    • Our organization wants to add a new division or major product line.
    • Our investors or funders want a plan. Be careful – don’t just burp out a stack of paper and call it a “plan.” Investors and funders are smarter than that.

    The next post (Part 2) will address questions 4-6 in the plan for a plan.

    Your thoughts about the plan for a plan?

    Here are many more resources about strategic planning.

    Carter McNamara, MBA, Ph.D. – Authenticity Consulting, LLC – 800-971-2250
    Read my weekly blogs: Boards, Consulting and OD, Nonprofits, and Strategic Planning.