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?