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How to Create a Hard-Hitting Hands-On Planning Session With Your Board

Ah, death by strategic planning! Don't get me started on how AWFUL and what a TIME WASTER strategic planning can be. At least the way we do it in the noprofit sector. I am organizing a "hard-hitting, hands-on planning session" with an organization that has been wandering aimlessly for a few years. They wonder why they can't raise money? Here's the answer - their vision is not juicy enough to get excited about. Here's our agenda for our planning session: (I've changed the names to protect the innocent!)
  • Reconfirm Good Cause's vision and mission.
  • Reach consensus on what Good Cause wants to do in order to implement its vision and mission in the coming year and in the next 5 years. (broad framework here for the longer time period.)
  • Identify strategic directions and set some firm goals around each direction.
  • Answer the question: "how will we know if we have been successful?"
  • Determine the critical success factors that will make or break the new goals.
  • Agree on the board's role in creating success for Good Cause and what each person is committed to doing.
  • Set next steps so that the staff can flesh out a complete operational plan for the coming year.
I had to tell the staff - you can TRUST me that it will not be a WASTE of time. I told her that I will not facilitate a meeting that I wouldn't attend myself. : )

A FIrst Class Strategic Planning Process

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I am the chair of a board governance committee charged with creating a strategic plan this year. (lucky me!). And I am determined to create a compelling, engaging, even exciting planning/visioning process that everyone will actually enjoy! Here's the process that I've sketched out this year: September: 1. Board Self Assessment Survey 2. Set strategic planning timetable and process October: 1. Form Task Force 2. Identify our organization's stakeholders 3. Determine if and how we want to get feedback and input from the stakeholders 4. Create a plan/process for receiving their feedback November board meeting: 1. Discussion of board self assessment survey data and determine any action items that need to be taken 2. Vision discussion with full board - what is our vision for our organization. How much money would it take to achieve our vision? (this is a "high impact - big picture" discussion that can draw additional people and resources to a big vision, as opposed to starting with "what can we accomplish within our resource constraints?") December January and Feb: Focus groups of key players/stakeholders discussing what is our vision and how much money would it take March: WHERE ARE WE? 1. Complete environmental scan at a board meeting. 2. Provide input from the stakeholder focus groups that were conducted in Jan and Feb. 3. Conduct SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis. April - May - June: WHERE DO WE WANT TO GO? 1. Based on all info and data gathered to date, create several scenarios of LL's future. 2. Assess each scenario re its pros and cons 3. Determine the right path for LL's future and set goals. July - August - September HOW DO WE GET THERE? 1. Staff and committees create plans for accomplishing the goals. Plans will include objectives, tactics/strategies and who's responsible What do you think? Want to comment?

The Trouble with Strategic Planning

Have you ever seen the energy sink out of a group of people when the words "strategic planning" are mentioned? I've actually seen people shudder! The problem is that board members have had bad experiences with this thing called "strategic planning." They have sat through laborious planning discussions that went nowhere and wasted their time. (The last thing you ever want to do is ask a board member for a full day of their time and then have them feel like it was wasted.) Even if the experience seems helpful at the time, NOTHING ever happens or changes afterward. Why is it that many nonprofit planning retreats end up focusing on the wrong things? The wrong trends. The wrong information. The wrong discussions. This is why people dread "strategic planning" it's a lot of time and talk with little or no results. I once served on a board that held a strategic planning retreat one Saturday from 8am till 5pm. Our icebreaker was to share the name of our favorite pet in a mingle exercise. (dumb). Then we labored over the mission and spent needless time wordsmithing the mission, vision and values. I just couldn't stand it - I just had to leave in mid-afternoon because I ran out of patience. At the end of the process, nothing really was accomplished, and the key critical "elephants in the room" never even got discussed. I am the lucky chair of a board governance committee who is charged with creating a strategic planning process for our organization. You can bet that I'm going to create a powerful, compelling experience that our board members will enjoy. I'll chronicle my experiences with our process over the next year as we progress. Have you had a strategic planning process that really worked for your organization? Why don't you share your experience?