Planning Strategically or A Strategic Plan?

What’s the distinction?

A strategic plan is a project, initiated by others – e.g., the CEO, the Board, Department Head – with some input from the originator but little participation.

Planning strategically is a team project, initiated by the leader of the team, with the leader’s input and participation.

First thing to determine for either – what does the originator want to get out of the process? Typically it is: the best path to a specific result; benchmarks for measuring overall organizational progress; the current year operating plan and year 2 and year 3 projections.

Successful planning has three key elements:

  • Why are we here? What’s the mission and the leader’s vision.

  • How did we get here? What is the history and key results.

  • Where are we going? What will the future be.

In the raw, the discussions may not be as neat and organized as listed about, but the content will fall into these categories.

Recently, I facilitated the day-long strategic planning session for a mission-based non-profit organization in the Washington, DC area.

The NGO has enjoyed hockey-stick growth in programs and funding for it’s initial years while carefully building a strong team. It now wants to be more focused and deliberate in the path for growth going forward.

Here’s a thumbnail view of the outcome in context of the model mentioned above:

  • What’s the goal: structure and growth

  • Why are we here: mission is clear to the team

  • How did we get here: key programs and funding trace the successful growth path

  • Where are we going: Discussion consolidated in 5 functional groups with task-based action plans for each.

The result – a living roadmap to guide actions and evaluate situations as they come up.

Which is more likely to create success – a roadmap or a fancy dust-catcher on the shelf?

What’s your view?

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