Seven Steps to Successful Strategic Planning

If you are looking to increase your impact, sustainability, and growth, then a strategic plan needs to be in your future. Successful strategic planning is a process, not a one-time event. Your success will be determined by how well your planning process motivates and inspires change.

Motivation is a function of three factors: dissatisfaction with your current state, your vision of what is possible, and concrete first steps that can be taken towards achieving your vision. All three factors must be present to be stronger than the natural resistance to change. I’ve taken my years of experience with strategic planning and designed a process that consistently leads to the results your organization desires. Follow these seven steps in your next strategic plan to experience real change.

1. Embrace Diversity: Strategic planning is about change; therefore, involve those who will help you implement that change. Include individuals at various levels and those who represent different functions in the organization. This leads to more rich ideas; increases accountability, staff buy-in, and follow-through.

2. Dream Big: Successful plans start with a picture of a future worth getting excited about. Start the process by discussing what your desired future vision would look and feel like. What products/services would you offer? Who would you serve? What outcomes would you experience? What would your staff and stakeholders be doing? How would they be feeling? Avoid the “yes, buts” at this stage. Once the group can feel and see the future on an emotional level, it is easier to overcome the barriers and conduct the hard work that lies ahead.

3. Get Real: You must know and accept where you are to get to where you want to go. Understand current financial trends; staff strengths and weakness; the success of your services; and the needs and desires of stakeholders and customers. Prior to your strategic planning meetings, conduct a survey of your stakeholders (funders, clients, board, staff, etc.) designed to truly understand your current state. This will provide you with the baseline data to measure all future success. Ask your group on a 1 to 10 scale, where one is completely opposite of that vision and 10 is living it, where are we today? Now you know how far you need to go.

4. Deal with the Gaps: Identify the gaps between where you are and your desired state. These gaps are the basis for your strategic plan. Resist the temptation to discuss goals or strategies before you list all of these gaps.

5. Set Short, Medium, and Long-Term Goals: Use the identified gaps to determine your goals. Decide what you want to achieve in a month, three months, six months, one year, etc. With each of these goals, define how you will know when you get there. In other words, how will you measure success?

6. Focus on the Now: Next, decide what actions need to occur to achieve the short-term goals. What will you do this month or this quarter to reach your short-term targets? Be specific in who will do what by when. Set nonnegotiable dates and times for progress reviews and determine your action plans for the next set of goals. Working on one short-term goal at a time makes the plan seem much more manageable.

7. Repeat Step 6: Once you have achieved your short-term goals, lay out the action plan for the next set of goals. These are now your new short-term goals. Continue this cycle and soon you will be living your desired future state!

These seven steps put you in the best position to motivate and manage organizational change to achieve your desired state. Sometimes it is helpful to have an outside consultant assist with your strategic plan by asking the right questions, conducting the current state objective assessments, keeping you focused, and providing needed accountability.

If you are looking to increase your overall impact by starting with a data-driven strategic plan, Measurement Resources is here to help! We can help you design and implement a strategic planning process that will lead to greater impact. Our favorite part is to celebrate our clients’ success on their increased impact on the world! We’d love to help you make data-driven decisions with confidence. Contact us today for your free 20 minute strategy session.

Want more information on how to increase funding, morale, positive press, and organizational impact? Join the Achieving Excellence Community in top right corner of this page and receive our free eBook, Ten Tips to Open the Door to More Grants (and Other Funding): Overcoming Common Mistakes in Outcomes Measurement.

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