I sat down today to read a strategic plan created by a consultant for a non-profit client of mine. It was quite detailed, 30+ pages in length, and seemingly based on solid methodology and research. There were lots of charts and graphs. Well defined goals and objectives.
When I finished my review, I was left with some fundamental questions. How will this organization, struggling to survive funding cuts and grow, define its “wins”? What are the simple, do-able steps to achieve them? And how is that achievement measured?
Don’t misunderstand. I am not bashing the “other” consultant. It was good work. What I am shaking my head over is the entire “strategic planning” process. For small businesses and non-profits, it goes both too far and not far enough.
Strategy is what you are counting on to win. An effective strategic plan is a roadmap that closes the gap between idea, need and action. Need more clients? Focus your strategies on specific client attraction methods. Focused on creating a better customer experience? Develop strategic objectives around how to turn your customers into raving fans. Those are the well defined “wins” that will help your organization grow.
Together with all of the other traditional strategic planning components your strategic plan needs to answer:
- What do we envision for our future?
- What insights from the ever present SWOT analysis can be addressed in the short term?
- What are the specific project plans and action steps required to create success?
- What resources are required to complete the strategic objectives?
- How will the strategic planning process drive the creation of a more concrete, detailed operational plan?
The particular document I reviewed had been sitting on a shelf since its completion. Which is exactly where I find most of my clients’ strategic planning documents. Tucked away. Hidden from sight. Unused and covered with dust. I am often seen sneezing when reviewing my clients’ previous strategic plans.
Strategy without a do-able plan for implementation fails every time. Successful organizations start and complete projects. Answering the five questions above during your planning process will allow you to make things happen and actually create those wins. And isn’t that what it is all about?
Megan Apple is the Chief Make It Happen Officer at A Virtual Certainty (avirtualcertainty.com). If you are ready to dust off your strategic plan, and make things happen you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.