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Strategic Planning
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On this page:
Strategic Planning Process

Strategic Planning Definitions

Strategic Planning Checklist

Ground Rules for Strategic Planning

Action Planning

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Strategic Planning Services


Unless you know where you want to go, you can't get there. Strategic planning isn't something that can be delegated. To ensure the best ideas, get consensus on a direction, and achieve buy-in and commitment, all key stakeholders need to be involved. An outside professional facilitator can help to structure the planning process, and conduct it in a timely, results-oriented fashion. Because strategic planning is essential but not urgent, it is easy to get sidetracked without someone to keep everyone focused and energized.

Here are some materials we use as strategic planning facilitations. You are welcome to use or adapt them as you wish.


Strategic Planning Process


1.Plan to Plan (Steering Group)
Planning work should be organized by a small group that includes the organization's chief executive officer and representation from the board.

2. Form Planning Group
The Planning Group should include representation from all stakeholders in the organization.

3. Environmental Scan (Steering Group, Staff or Consultant)
Gather together existing information and develop any needed information about the environment that affects the operation of the organization. The internal environment consists of the organization's heritage and culture, current structure and services, constituents (strengths and weaknesses); the external environment includes those factors external to the organization that are likely to have an impact on the operation of the organization: competitors, trends, rules, laws (opportunities and threats).

4. Conduct Planning Retreat (Planning Group with Facilitator)
The Planning Group should include representation from all stakeholders in the organization.

• Situation Analysis
Review the information that has been gathered.

• Create a Shared Vision
The vision of what the organization will be like at some point in the future when it is functioning as it could and should be functioning, i.e. when it is doing the right things the right way.

• Create or Review Mission, Core Values
Mission is the essential reason the organization exists. Values are how it aspires to behave.

• Discuss Strategic Issues

• Establish Goals (Strategic Directions)
The goals are based upon what it is that the organization needs to do in order to realize the future vision.

• Organize Task Forces

5. Develop Action Plans
The Task Forces should clarify the goal(s), for each goal identifying strategies (action steps), and for each strategy identifying who should be responsible for seeing that it is accomplished, how they should do it, by when, and how they will know when it has been accomplished.

6. Approve Plan
The Board is responsible for final approval.

Adapted from material developed by Dr. Carl M. Moore, Kent State University


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Strategic Planning Definitions


Mission (why)
  1. A succinct and compelling statement of our reason for existence.
  2. A statement of our core work, products and services.
  3. Who we serve and how they benefit.
  4. A basis for daily decisions about the work I do and we do.
  5. We create the statement and are mobilized by it.

Values (why)
  1. Guiding principles for how we do business.
  2. Underlying beliefs about what is important to us as an organization.
  3. Critical to success of our organization and support achievement of our mission.
  4. Drive the behaviors we want to model with ourselves and our customers.
  5. We create them and commonly embrace them.

Vision (what)
  1. A compelling picture of our future.
  2. A statement of what our organization will be like as we achieve our mission.
  3. Describes our optimum achievements and results.
  4. Draws us to create the culture we need/want.
  5. We visualize it together and mutually aspire to its fulfillment.

Strategic Goals (what)
  1. A broad statement, describing a desired outcome.
  2. A clear and compelling challenge to the organization (perhaps a stretch).
  3. A driving force which creates momentum and helps to make a difference.
  4. Arises from and consistent with the Values, Mission and Vision.
  5. We create the goals together and all commit to their fulfilment.

Action Plans (how, when and by whom)
  1. The method by which a goal will be achieved.
  2. Defines objective measures of success (how we know a goal is accomplished).
  3. Incorporates scope of work for each step: deliverables, human and financial resources required, person responsible for oversight, date of start and completion.
  4. For each participant, answers the question "What will I do tomorrow to accomplish my part of the plan?"
  5. Created with participation of the people involved, who commit to their fulfilment.


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Strategic Planning Checklist


1. What is the planning horizon?

_________________________________________________________________
2. When should the planning process be completed?

_________________________________________________________________
3. Who should be responsible for planning to plan (Steering Group)?

_________________________________________________________________
4. Which individuals and/or categories of individuals should be part of the Planning Group?

_________________________________________________________________
5. When and where should the initial Planning Group retreat be held?

Date_____________________________________________________________

Times____________________________________________________________

Place_____________________________________________________________

6. Which of the following components of your internal environment should be reviewed by the Planning Group?

__ History

__ Mission

__ Organizational Structure

__ Informal Culture

__ Leadership (staff, board)

__ Staff (roles/responsibilities)

__ Business (services, products)

__ Existing market/customers/clients/constituents

__ Key trends (numbers, dollars)

__ Overview of Programming

__ Other (please specify)_____________________________________________

7. Which of the following components of your external environment should be reviewed by the Planning Group?

__ Potential market/customers/clients/constituents

__ Competitors

__ Funders

__ Related systems (government, schools, agencies, etc.)

__ Rules, laws, regulations

__ Demographic changes (recent, past, projected)

__ Future trends (economy, technology, society, culture)

__ Informal cultures of the profession(s), industry

__ Other (please specify)_____________________________________________

8. What additional information should be reviewed by the Planning Group?

__ Studies, reports

__ Descriptions of similar organizations

__ People with useful perspectives

__ Other (please specify)____________________________________________

9. Who, if anyone, should be interviewed prior to the retreat?

__ Staff

__ Board

__ Planning Group

__ Other (please specify)____________________________________________

10. If interviews are conducted, which of the following questions should be included?

__ In your own words, what should be the mission of the organization?

__ What are some of the most important things you would like to see the organization accomplish in the next two years?

__ Who are the organization's customers (in other words, whom should the organization serve and who benefits from the organization's services)?

__ What are the internal strengths of the organization?

__ What are the internal weaknesses of the organization (in other words, how is the organization vulnerable)?

__ What external opportunities are available or are likely to become available to the organization in the next few years that would help the organization to accomplish its mission?

__ What external threats exist or could exist in the next few years that would hinder the organization in accomplishing its mission?

__ What are important needs in the community where the organization could make a difference?

__ Do you have any other advice the organization should consider in developing its strategic plan?

__ Other questions (please specify)_______________________________________

11. What should be the nature of the final product?

_________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________

•    What I like about reports or plans:

_________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________

•    What I dislike about reports or plans:

_________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________

Adapted from material developed by Dr. Carl M. Moore, Kent State University

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Ground Rules for Strategic Planning

1.  One person speaks at at time
2.  Keep yourself and the meeting on track
3.  Encourage everyone to participate
4.  Create options first, then make decisions
5.  Decisions by consensus ("I can support it.")
6.  Take care of your needs
7.  Participants and facilitator may intervene on the ground rules

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Action Planning


Development of an action plan is the last step in strategic planning. The process is quite simple, but requires discipline and perseverance to work through it. With the pressure of other daily tasks and agenda items, well-meaning staff members and work groups tend to let action planning slip. That's why organizations often bring in a facilitator and schedule a dedicated block of time to wrap up their action planning. In my experience, it takes about 90 minutes to two hours for a small group to complete an action plan. Don't try to do more than two in a day. (Here are instructions and a downloadable Action Planning Form.)

A. Identify the Steps

For each strategic goal, have the group brainstorm possible steps (sometimes referred to as strategies or tactics) that might need to be taken for the goal to be achieved. (Don't worry about the order at this stage, just generate options.) For example:

Goal: Demonstrate inefficiency of child labor.

Possible Steps:
Break crown
Fall down
Go up the hill
Fetch a pail of water

B. Put the Steps in Order

Ask the group to organize the steps in order of earliest to latest. You may delete, consolidate, or add steps as you do this. For example:

Steps Resources Dates Outcomes
(Strategies/Tactics) Human (*lead) Other Start Completion  
1. Go up the hill                                                                                          
2. Fetch a pail of water                                                                                          
3. Fall Down                                                                                          
4. Break crown                                                                                          
5. Tumble after                                                                                                                        

C. Fill Out the Row for Each Step, in the Following Order:

1. By what measurable outcome will we know the step is complete? For example:

Steps Resources Dates Outcomes
(Strategies/Tactics) Human (*lead) Other Start Completion  
1. Go up the hill                                                                     Jack & Jill on hilltop

2. By what date (time in this example) should that outcome be achieved?

Steps Resources Dates Outcomes
(Strategies/Tactics) Human (*lead) Other Start Completion  
1. Go up the hill                                                                    10:45 am Jack & Jill on hilltop

3. By what date (time in this example) would the step need to start in order for the completion date to be achieved?

Steps Resources Dates Outcomes
(Strategies/Tactics) Human (*lead) Other Start Completion  
1. Go up the hill                                             10:30 am 10:45 am Jack & Jill on hilltop

4. Who (i.e. human resources) needs to be involved to complete this step?

Steps Resources Dates Outcomes
(Strategies/Tactics) Human (*lead) Other Start Completion  
1. Go up the hill Jack, Jill                       10:30 am 10:45 am Jack & Jill on hilltop

5. Who will take the lead in ensuring that this step begins and ends on time? (It is essential that a particular individual be designated the lead human resource for each step. If you list multiple names or a department or a committee there will be no accountability, deadlines will slip, and it will be much more difficult to monitor status of the plan.)

Steps Resources Dates Outcomes
(Strategies/Tactics) Human (*lead) Other Start Completion  
1. Go up the hill Jack,* Jill                       10:30 am 10:45 am Jack & Jill on hilltop

6. What other resources are necessary to ensure that this step can be completed (e.g. budget, equipment, contract)? (Don't bother listing other resources if they are already available to the organization.)

Steps Resources Dates Outcomes
(Strategies/Tactics) Human (*lead) Other Start Completion  
1. Go up the hill Jack,* Jill topo map 10:30 am 10:45 am Jack & Jill on hilltop

7. Designate a "champion" for the action plan. This is someone who agrees to keep track of the status of the action plan, report that status to the board or executive staff group.

Champion: Mother Goose


Here’s a completed action plan for all the steps to accomplish this goal:

Action Plan
Organization:
Nursery Rhymes, Inc.
Goal: Demonstrate inefficiency of child labor.
Champion: Mother Goose

Steps Resources Dates Outcomes
(Strategies/Tactics) Human (*lead) Other Start Completion  
1. Go up the hill Jack,* Jill topo map 10:30 am 10:45 am Jack & Jill on hilltop
2. Fetch a pail of water Jill,* Jack pail 10:45 am 10:50 am Pail of water is obtained
3. Fall down Jack*   10:55 am 11:00 am Jack is prone
4. Break crown Jack,* EMT ambulance 11:00 am 11:45 am Head injury documented
5. Tumble after Jill*   11:50 am 11:55 am Jill is prone


D. Monitor Progress Against the Plan

Periodically – I recommend quarterly, but not less than twice a year – document and report progress of the plan to the board or executive staff group. Celebrate successes, trouble-shoot obstacles, modify the plan to reflect changed conditions. The champion takes the lead in preparing and delivering the report.

Here's an expansion of the action planning form which is easy to complete and to review. (In this example, I use a time for the update. Most action plans would use a date.)

Action Plan
Organization:
Nursery Rhymes, Inc.
Goal: Demonstrate inefficiency of child labor.
Champion: Mother Goose
Date of Draft or Update: 11:55 am

Steps Resources Dates Outcomes OnTrk? Status
(Strategies/Tactics) Human (*lead) Other Start Completion   Y/N  
1. Go up the hill Jack,* Jill topo map 10:30 am 10:45 am Jack & Jill on hilltop Y Complete
2. Fetch a pail of water Jill,* Jack pail 10:45 am 10:50 am Pail of water is obtained Y Complete
3. Fall down Jack*   10:55 am 11:00 am Jack is prone Y Complete
4. Break crown Jack,* EMT ambulance 11:00 am 11:45 am Head injury documented Y Complete
5. Tumble after Jill*   11:50 am 11:55 am Jill is prone N Anticipated by noon. Jill already on slippery slope.

Download these instructions and an Action Plan Template (the last page of the document) in Microsoft Word here.



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