Building Capacity...

—> Through Strategic Plan Design & Implementation

In the five decades since it was first adapted for the nonprofit sector, strategic planning has come to occupy a secure place in the management lexicon. It is now widely practiced and woven into the organizational modus operandi. In some ways, however, we are the victim of our own success. Strategic planning has become de rigueur when its whole point is to "pop our heads up" from our consumptive focus on our work in order to assess the larger context in which we are working.

This is a tall order. Assessing the larger context requires us first to pause long enough to listen anew to the voices of our stakeholders, and second to measure and understand the new trends which are emerging in our field (and in the field of our clients), and then finally to align our mission, values, and services to this evolving landscape. In this way, strategic planning, in order to be most effective, must not be baked into the processes of normal operations but instead must lie outside them.

No other planning is so fundamental or sweeping in its scope. Strategic planning puts everything on the table for reflection, revision, and re-evaluation. It integrates the plans of individual divisions, departments, and programs into a larger cohesive organizational plan which reflects and honors the mission.

To be sure, this can be quite a daunting proposition; for it calls on all programs to be re-examined against the standard of the mission. As a result, some programs may be retired (even as others are renewed). But no planning process holds so much opportunity for an organization as strategic planning.

As a consultant in this process, the Center not only assists in the composition of the strategic plan but also seeks to ensure that it truly serves your organization. All too often we have seen it operate the other way around, in which an organization struggles to serve its strategic plan. For this reason the Center does not regard the process as complete until the plan provides for dynamic revision and adjustment (even after its implementation) as changing conditions warrant and until tools for accountability are developed and then built into the very plan itself. We take this approach because without the means to measure whether an organization is on course and whether the plan is producing the expected results, a great plan on paper is just that — a great plan on paper.

Once a plan is clearly defined with quantifiable milestones in place, the Center then presides over its implementation. Strategic plans get implemented in one of two ways. The most common way is to execute a pre-existing implementation plan which is generally administered from the top down. The other way is to create a self-implementing plan by ensuring high levels of ownership and investment of the plan’s vision and values and a commitment to its outcomes.

If everyone in the organization understands, cares about, and buys into the future they want to create as a group, then over time they will see how the parts of the plan which apply to their work contribute to that future as well as how unforeseen events or conditions represent either opportunities harmonious with the vision or impediments to or diversions from the vision they have chosen.

The Center believes the cornerstone of a smooth and successful implementation is to involve the organization as a full partner (and sole owner) in the development of the plan itself.

So whether you are committed to a strategic process with quality at the core, or a Peter Drucker self assessment process with the customer at the core, or strategic thinking and scenario planning, or updating your rolling strategic plan, the Center understands your work and can join it to enhance both the process and the product of your planning effort.

Basic Elements of Strategic Planning
  • Identification of and inclusion of key stakeholders

  • Environmental scan
    (Research, political and economic, competitors/colleagues, future macro trends)

  • SWOT analysis
    (Internal strengths/weaknesses and external opportunities/threats)

  • Creation of a vision

  • Identification of critical issues
    (Questions that need to be addresses to successfully move from where we are now to where we desire to be in the future)

  • Development of scenarios
    (Including not only the most likely or sought but also contingency and back-up scenarios)

  • Selection of scenarios

  • Selection of strategies

  • Development of operational plans

  • Alignment of plans with budget

  • Evaluation data and data sources

  • Milestones/progress reports
    (Vision and strategies)

  • Updates/Integration of learning