Why do we talk about strategic planning being done?
This question might be a bit disingenuous. Yes, the planning process is important as a time of special focus on making strategic decisions. And at some point, you do need to get back to your day job.
But I worry that the idea that strategic planning has a hard-stop end date underemphasizes the change inherent in to the process.
If just you have the same old day job to go back to, really, what was the point of all that strategic planning? What difference did it make?
So, instead of talking about the later phases of strategic planning being a time where you undertake certain activities, let’s talk instead about what you should expect to be changing once you’ve made strategic decisions.
Imagine a situation where you’ve done the fact-gathering, assessed your alternatives, determined (or validated) your strategy, and done as much as you can up front in terms of scoping out your tactics to get your strategy achieved over the next few years.
What has just changed?
Absolutely nothing. Unless you go and change it.
What you’ve just done is created something that has a pretty good chance of turning into a type of shelfware unless you take further steps to embed it in the organization.
What needs to change? Plenty. And the more profound the strategic shift represented by your new plan, the more intense the changes can be expected to be.
- Board workplan. Make sure you have room in the board’s workplan for the year for the strategic activities you’ve just identified as important.
- Budgeting. This is where commitments become real. The logic of your strategy has to drive your budgeting choices, and that shouldn’t wait until the next budgeting cycle, either.
- Board agendas. Strategic priorities and issues should come first, before routine operational questions.
- Board reporting. It should focus on the strategic initiatives being implemented, and the metrics identified to measure their success.
- Management team and individual department meeting agendas.
- Board orientation. It should reflect the new strategic plan, and give some additional background as to how it was arrived at – its logical underpinnings.
- Objectives for other programs such as your conference, your educational programs, advocacy campaigns, marketing, etc. They need to be reviewed to make sure they are aligned with the strategic plan.
- Performance expectations of the staff, however those are formalized in your organization. Some may only need a minor tweak, while others may need revamping entirely. Start at the top.
- (What am I missing?)
With some plans, you might also need to undertake serious organizational change initiatives, such as restructuring, downsizing, or expanding.
With every plan, you will need to communicate to all your stakeholders what your plan turned out to be, particularly if you consulted with them to create it. And you will have some shifts in your thinking, your mindset, your approach, which will require lived experience to really grasp the implications of. This last one never really stops. That’s what informs your implementation, that’s what leads you to the next strategic insight, that’s what makes you increasingly smarter about how to move forward.
This is clearly more than can be tackled in a week or two, but even so, it’s important not to let grass grow under your feet. You don’t want the situation to arise where people are surprised by changes coming from the strategic plan – because they didn’t see any changes coming during the first cycles (of events, of budgets, of team meetings, of reporting, of performance management) after the plan was approved.
You’ve decided an omelette would be a good choice for brunch. Time to crack some eggs.
If you’d like to discuss your strategic planning needs, please get in touch. We could even have a coffee to go with the omelette you’re making.
(And, because you can never watch Julia Child make omelettes too many times…)