As a consultant, (and as a former senior employee and later as a CEO) a lot of time I spent with clients and former employers around the topic of strategic planning was in talking people down from their rooftop of anxiety when it comes “doing” strategic planning.  So, over time, I developed what I think is a simple approach to reduce the drama, distraction and damage people do to organizations when they don’t set a good direction through a good strategic planning process.

Knowing that most people get paralyzed with confusion even at the terms, goals, objectives, strategies and tactics, I try to start with those as the basics. Then, when I work with groups, I try to teach that there are three relevant things to consider when embarking on strategic planning as outcomes you want:

1)    A solid process – See our Strategic Planning Flow Chart

2)    A relevant product (the plan)

3)    Great content

A solid process is one that includes the stages I’ve outlined on the diagram I created (see below). You need to hear from stakeholders. That can be done informally or formally with statistically valid processes.  A combination of both is best, but anything you can do is better than nothing. It should also include an environmental scan, which is a look at what is happening in your industry sector for payment, legislation or anything else that can affect your business or nonprofit.  Other factors include the economy, the age and churn of your client/donor database, etc.

A relevant product is the plan you get when you finish the first phase of the process. I say first phase, because this should be an iterative process meaning you are constantly tweaking it and evaluating it.  From the strategic plan, comes the annual operating plan, development and communications plans and we will delve into those in a later blog.

Great content is really all about writing a plan that has the write ingredients, written in a simple, succinct way so folks don’t have to plow through a lot of prose. It’s not that they aren’t capable, because they are.  But, it is just a better approach to write the plan in a way that is focused and forthright.

That’s the best approach I’ve found for planning, whether it be for a $6 billion dollar corporation with dozens of subsidiaries or a small nonprofit.  Regardless of the size or type of the organization, taking a straightforward approach to strategic planning means the organization is better directed to things that matter now, and for its future.