I was once asked to facilitate creation of a strategic plan for an association, and when I asked to review a copy of their last plan, the leadership shook their heads and said they didn’t have one.
After the mild shock of hearing that answer subsided, I asked how they planned their budgets and programs. Their answer? We just looked at what we did last year and updated it.
How does that happen? How can an organization survive without a strategic plan? Well, the fact of the matter is, somehow they do – but you can liken them to a boat without a rudder. In other words, there is nothing to steer with; they just blow in whatever direction the wind is going. But when you don’t know where you’re going, you’re not likely to get there. Ever.
Strategic planning is the process of a company defining its strategy, direction and subsequent decisions with a long-term view of where it wants to be. It builds on the mission statement (what you do now) and the vision statement (where you want to be). It sets out goals the organization wants to reach within a preset length of time.
Strategic planning directly affects the workings of any organization, because the process requires that you look at all the aspects of your external and internal environment. Strategic planning takes your long-term vision and translates it into specific goals and short-term activities. Here’s an example: if your organization wants to grow its membership by 10% within the next two years, your strategic plan will help define how to align your resources toward that goal. It may take resources from marketing, finance, human resources and so on to reach that goal.
Your strategic plan will also align your staff and volunteers to the organization’s goals – as these teams start working in tandem, the processes become more efficient. To go back to the boat analogy, everyone is rowing together. A shared sense of purpose among individual team members goes a long way toward reaching the finish line.
Finally, strategic planning allows your organization to become transparent to your stakeholders and reduces the chance of misunderstandings slowing your progress. When someone wants to add a new program that requires a budget and staff time, the strategic plan is your “go-to.” If it’s not in the plan, you shouldn’t be doing it. Conversely, if it’s in the plan and you’re not doing it, it holds the leadership accountable.
Is your strategic plan up to date? OMG has skilled planners who can walk you through the process of updating or creating a new plan. What you wrote five years ago is probably not viable today. Let us know if we can help with a new plan!