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Evolving the Strategic Plan Process: Part 1 – Assemble the Right People to Design the Purpose that Inspires Your Plan

Posted by Tim Reuter on May 22, 2013 11:12:00 AM

Earlier this year, I organized and led a visioning retreat that included about 30 stakeholders and association leaders across an industry.  Our objective was clear – determine the optimal state for the industry movement, a vision for the future, and three to five aspirations to inform stakeholders at all levels about how they can contribute to a better future.  Simple, right?

Evolving_the_Strategic_Plan_Process-_Part_1_–_Assemble_the_Right_People_to_Design_the_Purpose_that_Inspires_Your_PlanHalfway through our retreat, someone asked, “Will you define or clarify what you mean by the movement? I don’t understand what it is.  This makes it difficult to envision its future, much less think about the aspirations that support it.”  This led to a wonderfully generative dialogue; however, the initial question about defining the movement has challenged my thinking about the strategic planning process ever since.

Coincidentally at this time, I was reading Change by Design by Tim Brown, CEO and President of IDEO.  His wonderful thinking and insight further challenged my thoughts following the retreat.  This, combined with a lot of other thinking and literature out there, helped inform some ideas on how to (re)approach the strategic planning experience.  The trick is to not only re-think how we design the process (and its purpose), but also, and more importantly, who is involved.

Simply put, we need to engage the right team of individuals to design the purpose that will inspire the strategic plan.  How do we go about (re)designing purpose, and who might be involved?

In his book, Tim Brown talks about the importance of “interdisciplinary teams” that have “T-Shaped people with diverse backgrounds and a multiplicity of disciplines.”   Since we are examining purpose design as part one of a strategic planning process, an interdisciplinary team could look like this (if they are T-Shaped people):

  • One or two staff members,  including the Association Executive (organization expert and believer)
  • One board member or committee chair (content expert and organization believer)
  • One or two informed stakeholders who are passionate about the industry/organization (environment experts and industry believer)
  • One or two “design thinkers” who could be from the outside but are passionate about contributing to new ways of thinking (innovative thinking experts and purpose believer)
  • One consultant to facilitate the creative process (process expert and purpose/organization believer)

The above make-up of multifaceted individuals creates an interdisciplinary team whose sole purpose is to explore what compels us to go somewhere (motivation) and design who or what the organization aspires to become (purpose).  This group does not create the strategic plan or even begin to focus on what objectives will bring it to life; they simply collaborate to design and articulate the organization’s vision

for what it could/should be.  It is also more realistic to accomplish this agenda with five to eight people, as opposed to 30 (especially if you get into defining gray areas, like “what movement means”).

Once this process is complete, the leadership has something to share with the full board, staff, members, stakeholders, volunteers, etc. for feedback.  Building the momentum through stakeholders is especially important for member and relationship-based organizations.  Momentum is not enough, which is why the nature of velocity – the speed at which the organization is moving forward, creating and operationalizing its plan, and achieving its aspirations – comes into play.

We will explore velocity and a new approach for the strategic planning process in Part 2 of this blog series.  First, though, we need to assemble the right people to design your purpose.

About Tim Reuter

Tim_ReuterTim is a learning experience and organizational success architect. He is passionately committed to the process of lasting change and transforming individuals and organizations through intentional learning and innovative strategy. After the better part of a decade fueling his passion in the nonprofit sector, Tim jumped at the chance to impact people and organizations on a broader scale and co-founded Growth Guiders. His proactive, collaborative, and “design with the end in mind” approach is informed by his background in nonprofit management, curriculum design, governance, organizational change, experiential learning, collaborative design thinking, and research/assessment. Tim volunteers on center and association boards and committees in the areas of higher education, fraternal organizations, and training/development. Tim’s nonprofit experience includes nine years at an international nonprofit, where he led the design, implementation and administration of its organizational change initiative. Tim led the creation of more than a dozen member development, leadership and training programs for organization members and volunteers at the local, regional, and international levels. Almost all of these programs are still in use today. Additionally, he led research and assessment efforts to measure the impact of the initiative at the individual member and organizational levels. Through his research, Tim empirically proved that a values-based member experience, combined with a developmental learning model, can positively impact the psychological maturation of college men, reduce the frequency of alcohol-related incidents, and increase organizational performance in the areas of member recruitment, retention, involvement, and academic performance. His article “A Values-Based Learning Model to Impact Maturational Change: The College Fraternity as Developmental Crucible” was recently published in Oracle, a peer-review journal. Tim has worked with more than 8,500 college students and student affairs professionals on more than 130 college campuses. He has also led training programs for national associations and collaboratively designed and led organizational development strategies for professional organizations. Tim’s experiences have afforded him the opportunity to lead strategy sessions and training programs for groups as small as five and presentations for audiences as large as 1,000. His system-level thinking always returns to how we can help the organization (sum of parts) succeed through the education, training, alignment and development of its stakeholders. Tim received his Bachelor’s degree from Simpson College (IA) and a Master of Public Affairs from Indiana University’s School for Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA-IUPUI). While in SPEA, he was granted a specialized concentration in Governance & Organizational Change and received certificates in public management and negotiation and dispute resolution. As a result of his professional experience and work within SPEA, he was asked to collaborate on an evaluation of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission’s (OSHRC) dispute resolution processes. He co-authored the report recently accepted and published by OSHRC that makes several policy recommendations to improve the efficiency and efficacy of various dispute resolution programs at the agency.

Topics: Association, Board of Directors

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