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Avoid Strategic Planning Mistakes

I desire I might count the number of times I have attended a non-profit strategic preparation session, or reviewed the requirement to have (or update) one in a board meeting, or been invited to act as the facilitator. It has always – constantly – struck me that the tactical preparation session need to just be starting regarding the moment that it is actually finishing (e.g., excessive time is thrown away at the beginning and after that a craze results at the end). The function of this post is to describe some observations over thirty years of tactical preparation experience as well as to share suggestions that will certainly enhance the chances for an effective end result.

At some time in time, every participant of a non-profit board is mosting likely to listen to the tip: “allow’s hold a tactical planning session!” from a fellow board member or staff member. It’s not a bad suggestion but, sadly, it’s typically a wild-goose chase and generates no measurable results. I intend to share some monitorings as well as ideas about strategic planning – invite discussion – and see if we can develop some guidelines that make the financial investment of time beneficial. I have actually commonly claimed that strategic preparation is a ‘process’ as well as not an ‘occasion’ – as well as I still quite think that statement is true. Nevertheless, maybe I ought to likewise include the caveat that an effective ‘process’ does certainly require an ‘occasion’ – or series of occasions – which is exactly the factor. If you agree with my idea that the event frequently finishes regarding the moment it ought to be beginning, after that you would need to concur that additional follow-up after the occasion is called for in order to produce a meaningful strategic plan since the plan cut short of completion during the original event. As well as a great deal of time was utilized inefficiently, which also makes individuals reluctant to take part in the future.

Undoubtedly, the primary manner in which I evaluate a successful strategic plan is by seeing a copy of it a year after the ‘event.’ If it’s a little bit as well dusty (which is frequently said tongue-in-cheek, however is true!) and also if the web pages remain in excellent problem, after that the event that developed the strategy was obviously not effective in inspiring activity. Nonetheless, if the copy is dog-eared, marked up, added to, pages marked, and also otherwise well-used; after that the event was super successful because a ‘process’ was certainly birthed and also the requirement for continuous action was instilled. In my viewpoint, successful end results are as well rare in the strategic preparation ‘application’ stage. The copy of the strategic plan that I called a success is one that has actually ended up being a working paper, which is what preparation is everything about.

From an analytical standpoint, one means to specify something is to determine what it is not. Method is various from ‘tactical’ or ‘operational’ (which is really executing a job). Method is a lot more subjective and analytical; it involves thinking of a concern in wider terms than normal; thinking about scenarios that do not presently exist (i.e., future oriented) and figuring out just how to adapt the company to gain from those forecasted opportunities or stay clear of anticipated hazards. Frequently, it entails considering an issue entirely differently than in the past (which is extremely tough to do). Strategy development is not the like operations application. For example, when I have been invited to ‘do’ critical preparation for an organization, I constantly ask if there is an Operating Plan; i.e., if you do not understand how to execute your core company daily (Operating Strategy), why would you wish Norstrat to spend time working on a future-oriented process (Strategic Plan)? Strategy (highly subjective) is the opposite of functional (very objective/defined/specific). Goal is ‘cut and dried’ – there is a procedure/process/outcome that emerges from particular activities, done at certain times, in a specific method to produce known/certain end results. We already understand if we do these specific things what we will get. The majority of people can sufficiently perform what they are taught/instructed. Nonetheless, establishing strategy – even the process of considering it – is really different. A tactical preparation session led by a ‘doer’ rather than a ‘planner’ as well as ‘vital thinker’ will yield frustrating results; however, ‘doers’ can be very helpful in participating in the advancement of approach if they are correctly guided. A couple of very easy examples of strategic vs. functional issues will make the point:

Let me fast to tout the benefits of an Operating Plan. Properly executed, an Operating Preparation Session can offer or refine particular guidance/clarification/policy on any number of day-to-day issues that actually can be a huge help when running the company. The key distinction in between calculated and also operating (which is a significant difference) is that operating plans deal with the ‘present moment’ – with processes as well as plans that will certainly boost the existing organization function – strategic plans, simply put, engage the individuals in thought procedures meant to test the current business feature by checking into the future and also analyzing opportunities, dangers, weak points, and also staminas. An excellent Operating Plan can reduce day-to-day confusion/questions about the manner in which particular job functions should be carried out. The ‘occasion’ of operations preparing – getting the suitable group together to go over, discussion, and determine the concerns – is, in-of-itself, an extremely worthwhile team-building and also clarifying session (if effectively planned as well as performed). While Running Strategies are beyond the range of this post, I wished to see to it they were stated in a positive context.

Regrettably, most tactical planning sessions seem to start with either a review of the objective declaration or a SWOT evaluation. Both are typically ‘deal-busters’ because they bog down the process of innovative reasoning for critical preparation. As an example, unless the core business of the organization has been absolutely disrupted (e.g., by absence of funding or policy, political, social, or technology adjustments), after that the existing objective declaration ought to remain in fairly good condition. To look into the mission statement – and debate specific words as well as positioning within the text – sucks the life out of the planning session and can usually match individuals against each other right from the beginning over foolish things like wordsmithing. Not just is this unfortunate, but I would certainly recommend that it is completely unneeded. How can you change an objective declaration till you undergo the roughness of the calculated preparation process and also figure out whether or not there are bona-fide strategic problems worth going after? My choice is to hold the mission statement for a different preparation conference after the strategic plan has at least been via a preliminary rough draft procedure. Perhaps a good example is to consider the goal declaration from the back end – perhaps it should be thought of as more of an executive summary?

There is probably no workout that needs a lot more preparation than strategic preparation. Why? Because the participants must be the best ones (those with authority as well as liability), the function of the exercise must be made very clear (to stay ‘on factor’ and also remove confusion and worry), as well as the process must be known and participating in breakthrough (so participants can be prepared to add their greatest). The most noticeable difference between a private-sector calculated preparation session and one for a charitable company is the incorporation of volunteers, specifically the board of directors. The bright side is that the preparation session will consist of a variety of point of view; the bad news is that the majority of board participants have possibly been with some type of critical planning before and have actually preconceived notions concerning the procedure based on their previous experiences (hence, the relevance of planning for the session ahead of time). I will go over the dynamics of the volunteer individuals in a later area.

Ideally, share copies of previous strategic plans (with the individuals as well as the facilitator) as part of the preparation procedure that happens well before the occasion. Effective planning takes even more time in preparation than it does in execution; this is a good rule of thumb to bear in mind. If extremely little (or no) planning enters into the preparation, the individuals will certainly turn up without direction as well as without having considered innovative services to some known issues to obtain their juices moving; the event will likely be a disaster (and also a waste of a great deal of precious time).

A lot of preparation is important; 6 months is not as well long. Beginning by on a regular basis reviewing the need/desire of a critical preparation session at board and also team conferences. A letter to the board from the chair is a great way to formally reveal that a calculated preparation session is required. That letter ought to include a few examples of problems that are pressing the company for tactical solutions. The board may desire to call a committee in charge of the planning (or, the board may already have a Strategic Preparation Board). Keeping in mind that the plan is planned to be forward looking, it is necessary to involve up-and-coming board and also team member; their engagement will certainly be important to the future execution of the strategy, so it is necessary they be associated with the advancement of it. Newer individuals are frequently more reluctant to involve during the planning session since they end, probably rightly so, that there is a great deal of history that they do not know. Keeping in mind that calculated preparation is forward looking, the facilitator needs to work hard to bring everyone into the discussion since previous background is less important than future method.

Remember that welcoming the individuals is much easier than obtaining them to attend the session! This is one of the very best reasons for starting the conversations about the planning session six months in advance. My idea (this is a little bit extreme) is that it be explained that if a participant can not show up in a timely manner and remain for the whole event, then they should not participate in. This policy will certainly explain the significance of complete engagement. Restating this for numerous months before the session will certainly make it less most likely to have a misconception on the day of the event. (If the organization is very aggressive, after that it currently has a policy on board attendance and what is taken into consideration an excused lack.).

How vital is the option of the location to hold the preparation session? I would certainly say that it is more crucial than most individuals believe (i.e., it is really crucial). I would highly recommend that the location be far from the typical meeting point. Furthermore, diversions like golf courses need to be prevented; and, picking a place where there is no cellular phone function looks after a whole host of troubles. Consisted of in the selection of the location are a number of other apparently ordinary issues, however planning ahead of time can make the distinction in between success and also failing.

Determining the proper length of the session is important. I remain to believe that planning sessions finish about the time they must be starting/continuing. Why? Due to the fact that without a great deal of innovative preparation and focus to detail, the event begins sluggishly as well as does not normally find a participative program up until far too late. However, I have actually never been to a multi-day ‘workshop’ that I thought deserved my time due to the fact that I do not play golf and am not looking at seminars or intending sessions for my entertainment as well as social outings. I really feel highly that the relevance of the planning session should be maintained critical psychological of the participants. There is no factor to draw things out just for the benefit of having a lengthy planning session. How short is also short? A calculated planning session can not be efficiently held in one morning. How much time is too long? Anything longer than a number of days will certainly cause a negative effect on the procedures of the company, given that the entire management group goes to the strategic planning event. However, the very best session I ever went to lasted the lion’s share of three days. And also, it was a Friday, Saturday, as well as Sunday (purposefully selected so as not to disrupt regular procedures).

A properly sized inn was chosen – in a rural area and also regarding 90 minutes out of town – as well as the company leased the entire facility. It was exceptionally well prepared, beforehand, and all backups were taken into consideration (exclusive rooms, dishes, strolling tracks, several conference room, no cell solution, personal time developed right into the schedule, and so on) Created products had actually been dispersed weeks beforehand. The helping with group (outdoors professionals) had met individually with each individual before the event; the five-person consulting team got here Friday morning to establish. There were 24 individuals (ranging from the CEO to brand-new supervisors), that arrived after lunch on Friday, looked into their areas, and were in location for the mid-day (opening) session at 3 p.m. on Friday. An additional session was carried out after dinner on Friday evening as well as multiple sessions were performed on Saturday. The event concluded at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Of unique note is that every participant left the session with a duplicate of the draft strategic plan that celebrated the very first session in the planning procedure. Updates were added as they became available in the days, weeks, as well as months ahead. Objectives and also goals were developed to generate quantifiable results and also changed as needed. Organization-wide communications was very important, so tasks were made to orient the whole worker populace on the plan and its iterative changes. This tactical preparation occasion stays the best I have ever gone to. Comparison this quick summary with the preparation events you have actually participated in as well as you will see the difference that commitment can make. As well as, vital to state: the resulting strategic plan totally changed the company, as was planned (the organization lowered its service area as well as its product offerings, opting to focus on its core strengths). A much better result can not be pictured.

I do not rely on the old stating, “you get what you spend for.” Rather, I think you will get no greater than you spend for and you could not even obtain that much if you are not totally involved with the company. Good calculated planning is not low-cost. Numerous for-profit companies can not afford it, so it is not a surprise that the charitable companies have a hard time mightily with the cost. A common practice is to have a friend-of-a-friend conduct a 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (with lunch!) preparing session free of charge (or for a couple of hundred dollars). How successful is this strategy? I would certainly suggest not successful at all – and, potentially providing an adverse perception to calculated preparation because the session was so grossly poor. If this is true, then it is literally much better not to have a strategic preparation session that to have a poor one. Fees vary around the board but, for example, the case study presented over expense $50,000 (negotiated below $75,000 in conjunction with the trial and error of generating the draft strategy during the session) – and that was over 15 years earlier. I know with a recent strategic plan for a charitable company – conducted by a national consulting firm focusing on the operations of that certain charitable industry – and also the expense was $75,000 about two years back. Nonetheless, make note: a benefactor funded 100% of the cost under the belief that without a strategic plan, the company was in problem. So, my pointer would certainly be to seek benefactor financing for the strategic preparation expenses. Likewise, I would certainly recommend that the organization proclaim the presence of its strategic plan in its printed product and also on its internet site, thus demonstrating that it is proactive as well as performs in a business-like manner, which can provide a competitive advantage throughout fundraising.