“Strategic Planning” is one of those terms that just gets thrown around. The variety of perspectives on strategic planning, it’s processes, and it’s final outcomes seem infinite.
The problem for you is that you can end up drowning while trying to grab hold of this big idea while people keep saying ‘we need a strategic plan!’
I want to equip you with a set of disciplines and skills that are based upon nearly 20 years of working with faith-based non profit organizations, and obsessing over what effective strategic planning really looks like.
The truth is, strategic planning is not about getting a perfect plan for a predictable future for your ministry. It’s about the discipline and process of planning and the impact that is coupled with a final product that can be implemented. Your strategic plan should be alive, vibrant, and not sitting on a shelf gathering dust.
Strategic Planning is indeed a powerful tool for you as a leader. I believe in it strongly and I want to equip you with the best practices that we have pulled together after many years of working with many different leaders.
Step 1: Start with who then what.
First, we need to use the Jim Collins approach. Start with who then clarify the what of the planning process. Before we think at all about a process or ideas for strategies included in a plan, we need to think about who the best people are to get involved. Not all staff and volunteers are created equally when it comes to planning.
I encourage leaders to develop a list of 50-100 people to involve in planning. Strategic planning should be an amazing process that involves amazing people. This group of people is not only thinking about the future, but may even end up involved and committed to implementation when the strategic planning process is concluded. Powerful!
Now, what are these planning people and teams going to work on? This is your first opportunity to provide leadership. We believe that the leader should define the boundaries of the strategic plan. The best way to do this is to define the planning process around the questions that you have about various aspects of your organization. What are you pondering as a leader for the future of your ministry or organization in these specific areas? Let this shape the questions you ask.
We encourage you to think in terms of five or ten groups of questions. Here are some examples of those groups to be thinking within.
- Financial sustainability
- Messaging, marketing, and public relations
- Growth and quality control
- Raising money for the future
It’s important that you remember that the person (you) who asks the questions controls the debate. This is a role that no one else can do. YOU have to do it. You can get input on your key questions, but you have got to establish the boundaries of the strategic planning process.
Step 2: Become a participant in the process.
Once you’ve framed these questions and recruited these great people you, as the leader, have the opportunity to step back and become a participant in the process, rather than the driver. Leaders are usually tempted to step all over great ideas. You will step over great people and their valuable input if you are not careful because you have so many of your own great ideas. This process enables you to step back and become a participant.
I suggest hosting a kickoff event inviting all of the participants in the planning. Hopefully, the kickoff event enables you, or an outside presenter, to present some of the big challenges, ideas, and opportunities facing your ministry. The kickoff gets everyone thinking on the same page.
Then, give them a fun opportunity to exercise the skill of working together in teams. All of this happens in a controlled environment. But, it’s fun and it gets everything started right with some momentum rolling.
The teams now have their group of questions that you have provided them as a leader. They are grappling with these questions, and crafting, using an example, their strategies, tactics, and goals. They are addressing the issues of how to measure progress in this area and how to move the organization forward on their assigned group of questions.
Each team should meet as many times as it takes to keep momentum and then they have to come to a conclusion. Finally, they will present to you the strategies, goals and tactics that they have prepared for their area of focus as a team.
This is when things get very exciting as a leader and even for your board because now we have got all of these ideas piled up, based upon the questions you have asked. Some of the input is all over the place, but the closer you look, the more you realize there is a lot of alignment and consistency here.
Step 3: Create the final product.
You will start seeing an overlap of these different teams, their thinking, and the other leaders involved while you become an editor to this process. Rather than limiting the future of your ministry to your own thinking, you have become an editor of the very best ideas. You can begin to frame this into a final product that you believe in, that you will stand behind, and that you will help bring resources and people to implement.
When you have your final product, you have something that can be held in your hand, that implementation can be shaped around, that future teams can be working on in an ongoing way, and that you can use to hold people accountable to how they are moving your ministry forward.
Not only do you have a final product, but you have implemented a process involving 50-100 amazing people who are all ready to be involved in implementing and moving your organization forward toward the plan. This is an incredibly powerful tool and really one of the best ways that we know of to gain alignment across organizations.
You’ve now created a feeling of ownership, momentum, vibrancy, and accountability. You also have a lot of people ready to invest time, energy, and resources into implementing this strategic plan.
If you are in the mode of strategic planning, you might also want to check out a tool to help you create your very own Strategy Statement. This is a one page tool designed to provide you and others with ultimate clarity in answering the question, “What is our organizational strategy?” You can get it now by clicking here.