A post from a blog I follow – Non-Profit with Balls – arrived in my in-box this morning. It generated more than a few chuckles with its list of tongue in cheek definitions of concepts and terms we regularly use in the non-profit sector. My favorite was for Strategic Planning, defined in the post as ‘a really expensive binder on a shelf that can occasionally be used as a doorstop.’
This definition really resonated with me because many of the clients that engage my services report that their last strategic plan was not particularly useful or realistic. In many cases they were pages long with multiple objectives and priorities that seemed overwhelming in the cold light of the day after the planning session. For that reason, they were shelved and didn’t receive much attention.
For every planning initiative that I facilitate, we work to develop two or three solid, attainable priorities with defined outcomes that will support the mission and propel the organization toward its vision. More than three is a stretch for most organizations with limited resources. If the plan isn’t regularly reviewed and if necessary, revised, it will surely spend its life as a doorstop so I recommend that the board set aside a portion of the agenda at every meeting to review progress on the plan.
Here’s some questions for the board to use in reviewing its plan:
- What progress has been made on each of the priorities? Be specific using measurable outcomes.
- Where have we made little/no/not enough progress? What have the barriers or obstacles been to making progress on this priority?
- What can we do to eliminate or deal with these barriers?
- If we haven’t made any progress, is this priority still a priority?
- Are there emerging challenges or opportunities that we need to consider?
- Do these emerging challenges or opportunities outweigh those in our current priorities? Do we need to temporarily put aside a priority to focus on a new challenge or opportunity?
- Have we said we will do more than we can manage with the resources available? Do we need to provide additional resources or change the parameters of any of the priorities?
- Have we completed a priority? If so, what is the next priority?
- Besides measuring our progress, are there other things that we as board members need to do to support the priorities (eg fundraising)?
- Have we celebrated our success? Have we thanked the staff and volunteers for their efforts?
Strategic planning is an ongoing process, not a day in the calendar after which strategic planning is complete for another 3 years. Make your plan live by reviewing and renewing it regularly!
Need help to define a realistic, achievable strategic plan? For more information, send us a note.