How to Start Strategic Planning: Plan for a Plan II

Sections of this topic

    In Part 1, we reviewed the first 3 of the 15 questions that should be addressed during the “plan for a plan” phase of strategic planning. In this Part 2, we review questions 4-6.

    4. What is the Scope of Our Plan?

    It’s not uncommon for leaders to believe that a long-term plan will somehow guarantee that they won’t be surprised over the long term – that the plan will somehow lock in a version of the future. Wrong.

    • If the organization is fairly new, has many current issues or the external environment is changing a lot, then consider a shorter-term plan, for example, a 2- to 3-year plan.
    • If the organization is in this situation and still wants a longer-term plan, then consider clarifying the mission, vision, and values and some goals for the longer term, but do action plans for the next year. (The action plan is about who is going to do what and by what date.)

    5. What Planning Model Should We Use?

    Here’s where planners often make a big mistake – they do vision-based planning when they should have been doing issues-based planning.

    • If your organization has a lot of resources, a few current issues, and a history of being able to implement plans, then do vision-based planning. Vision-based planning is working from the future to the present.
    • If your organization has very limited resources, several major and current issues, and struggles even to implement a plan, then do issues-based planning. Issues-based planning is identifying current issues and what to do about them. A year or so after implementing this plan, the organization might be healthy enough to do vision-based planning.

    See the article Basic Overview of Various Strategic Planning Models.

    6. How Might That Model Be Implemented?

    • If the organization has a frequent turnover of staff, a well-informed Board and upper level of management, and the culture does not value participative decision-making, then a top-down planning approach might be most suitable — although highly participative decision-making almost always results in more buy-in to the Plan.
    • Otherwise, if Board members and executives are not well-informed about the organization and its environment or are weak leaders (an extremely unfortunate situation), then a bottom-up planning process might be most suitable.
    • A concurrent approach to planning — participation from all levels of the organization — is probably best if the culture of the organization highly values participative decision-making.

    The next post (Part 3) will address questions 7-9 in the plan for a plan.

    Your thoughts about the plan for a plan?