How to Start Strategic Planning: Plan for a Plan – Part 3

Sections of this topic

    In the previous post (Part 2), we covered questions 4-6 of the 15 questions to address in the “plan for a plan.” This post explains questions 7-9.

    7. What’s Your Schedule for Developing the Plan?

    Too many organizations do planning by gathering planners into one retreat where they tweak wording on the mission statement and brainstorm fantastic ideas. Too often, that generates a plan that’s full of fantasies with little grounding in reality. Take time to do it right.

    • Usually, the best time to start strategic planning is near the middle of your fiscal year, so you can produce an updated annual budget in time for the start of the next fiscal year.
    • If the purpose of your plan primarily is to verify or expand products, then take time to do some basic market research – to hear from consumers. That could add several weeks or months to the schedule to complete the plan, but it’s critical. Otherwise, your plan could build “a beautiful ladder, but on the wrong roof.”
    • It’s often better to have several short meetings between periods of research, rather than one long meeting for planning that involves little external research at all.
    • For small organizations, aim to have the planning done in several weeks or at most 2-3 months.

    8. Who Will Be Involved? How? When?

    The contents of the plan are determined in large part by who takes part in the planning. Also, the people involved often learn a great deal about the organization. (In Part 1, we talked about who should be on your Planning Committee.) In the overall process, involve:

    • Those with authority to make decisions – and this should include your Board members.
    • Those who will primarily be responsible for implementing the plan. This is critical.
    • People who are knowledgeable about products and services. They ground your plan and make it real.
    • Someone to champion the process – to keep up the spirits of the planners. Planning can be tedious, especially when strategizing or talking about how to achieve goals.
    • As much as possible, involve some stakeholders, including some customers, funders, and collaborators. Involve them especially when establishing goals about products and services.

    9. Will You Need an Outside Facilitator?

    Get an outside facilitator if:

    • You’ve not done strategic planning before.
    • Your last plan was not implemented.
    • People struggle to come to a consensus.
    • People believe an outside facilitator will help planners be more open and honest during their participation.
    • Planners want an objective perspective on their situation.
    • (A note about facilitators – don’t require your facilitator to know a lot about your industry, products, and services. You’re better to have an expert in planning who knows little about your organization, than the other way around.)

    The next post will share questions 10-12 of the 15 questions to address in the plan for a plan.

    What do you think?