Have you ever been part of a team that is all working in the same direction? Where everyone is on the same page and each person understands their role and its connection to the overall mission of the team? This sounds like a dream world, I know. But it's possible. With a combination of intention and leadership, this scenario is accessible to organizations that choose to pursue it.
The only question is how....
In our view, a thoughtful strategic planning process can help to foster a collaborative environment as described above, and so much more. Here are four key reasons to build a strategic plan.
1. Reconnect with the mission and vision of the organization. Some of us get caught in the “set and forget it” mindset with our mission and vision, leading us to easily lose touch with its importance in the day-to-day work, as well as the overall direction of the organization. Do your programs today line up with your current mission and vision? Do your Board Members know your mission and vision statements by heart? Convening a group of stakeholders to talk about the mission and its relevance can lead to important adjustments to the organizational statements or substantive changes in the direction of the organization.
2. Increase ownership. Reaching out for broad stakeholder participation in the strategic planning process can foster a sense of pride, responsibility, and ownership that translates to higher quality results and investment (of all kinds: time, effort and fund development). How many of your volunteers feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves? Does your staff reflect the best interests of the organization in their interactions with the program participants? Both the planning process and the implementation of the plan create opportunities to embrace stakeholders at all levels of the organization.
3. Meet changing needs. The experience of living through a global pandemic has taught us that our economic, social, and political landscape can change on a dime. The minimal best practice of engaging in strategic planning every three to five years may no longer be adequate. Reviewing an existing strategic plan frequently—at least quarterly—will prompt an organization to subtly (or not so subtly, perhaps!) adjust to the changing times. It may suggest the need for focused strategy discussions on a much more regular basis. Besides external factors, internal changes may require intensive strategic thinking. Has a founding member of your Board of Directors retired, leaving a hole that is difficult to fill? Does the data that you collect create an opportunity to offer a much-needed new service? There are a myriad of things that can suggest strategic shifts, many of which are unplanned.
4. Define success together. Building a plan as a team, with representatives of multiple voices at the table, will serve to achieve results that everyone can be proud of. We do this by assessing where the organization is now, setting goals, defining core strategies to get there, and measurable objectives to know when we've arrived. Pulling together stakeholders from all parts of the organization is particularly important when defining success. Are members of your participant community represented in this conversation? Do your Board Members reflect the racial demographics of the participant community? Ensuring that the voices of those served are heard is critical to setting attainable goals. When everyone contributes to the definition of success, then committing to get there will be much easier.
By leveraging strategic planning tools—either in a full planning process or to address urgent concerns—you can strengthen your organization and help it advance the greater good.