Nonprofits usually start their strategic planning process in the summer. An organization begins to evaluate successes and disappointments and starts to think about possible expansions or adjustments. In the many strategic planning sessions I have facilitated, there are often three roadblocks that surface. How to set the stage for a successful outcome is important, so here are the roadblocks.
- “I’m not sure what strategic means.” Many strong and successful managers are great at the operational level, but it may take them out of their comfort zone to think long term. For example, why should the department head of a self-funded school program, paid for by fees and tuition, worry about future thinking? The CFO works hard to balance the budget but sees no place for her thinking about future plans. She will manage it when it changes. The Executive Director/CEO or the process leader needs to spend planning time before the process begins, to probe these important contributors to the process on what they would like to accomplish in the future. Helping them to adjust their mindset is critical.
- “This process is so abstract, and doesn’t really apply to my job”. Taking the time to do strategic planning must also include making sure all important players are included, Being a voice in the planning is important. The next step is making sure each player can put operational goals to the strategies. Hopefully this step can be at least started at the end of the session (at least 1 or 2 goals). But if time is limited, a follow on session should be scheduled immediately. I have seen some wonderful team building occur with this approach.
- “ All we did was talk about our successes”. It is very tempting to spend an inordinate amount of time on past performance – either a very successful year, or one with disappointments. While it is important to understand well the starting point and what was accomplished, it is also very important to keep everyone thinking strategically and long term. A working agenda with time slots may help the leader keep all players on point.
Author: Adrianne Geiger DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org