If this process sounds familiar, you may have strategic planning for strategic planning sake disorder (SPSPSD):
- Hire a consultant;
- Engage stakeholders via survey (or do not include them at all, which happens regularly);
- Host a strategic plan retreat for the board and senior staff;
- Create a mission and/or vision statement, as well as three to five main objectives;
- The staff (let’s be honest…one or two staff members) builds out and drafts the strategic plan;
- The strategic plan looks like staff assignments and one long “to do list” for the next few years;
- The board makes some suggestions, the staff makes edits, and the board approves the plan;
- Everyone is excited and the plan is shared with members and stakeholders; and
- The strategic plan is shelved and only brought out at board meetings or staff performance evaluations.
If you or, more importantly, your organization suffers from SPSPSD, you may be a qualified candidate for relationship-focused strategic planning, also known as (RFSP). What is RFSP, and how is this different than SPSPSD?
- First, RFSP builds upon pre-strategic planning work completed by a purpose design team (covered in part one of this blog series). It follows a similar process to SPSPSD (initially) driven by the relational nature of membership-based organizations. Stakeholders are engaged to provide feedback on the purpose and aspirations designed by the purpose design team. This produces in specific information gathered related to how a (re)defined purpose and/or aspirations will impact stakeholders. Ways this informs the strategic planning process can include:
- How the new purpose and aspirations may/may not be embraced by various stakeholder groups within and outside the organization;
- Loss of role or purpose anxieties, especially for long-time members whose identities are wrapped up in their organizational role;
- Barriers identified by stakeholder groups which could negatively impact achieving aspirations;
- Opportunities and additional aspirations that the purpose-design team did not identify;
- Strategic and tactical thinking that would motivate and inspire stakeholders to embrace, support, and invest in the aspirations;
- Programming needs to help stakeholders adapt and evolve as the organization does through achieving aspirations;
- Second, how can we lead a collaborative process that includes the creation of board, staff, and volunteer/member objectives (not just a long staff “to do list”)? Our goal should be to use the objectives to set expectations, create commitment, and position the plan and stakeholders for success. In Beyond Learning Objectives, Drs. Jack and Patti Phillips identify six possible objectives that could be used and/or adapted to a relationship-based strategic planning process. The six are:
- Input Objectives: activities that make up the project or program (or strategic plan);
- Reaction Objectives: what we should initial success we should expect – an assessment of how well our strategic plan meets stakeholder needs;
- Learning Objectives: precise, performance driven objectives related to stakeholder learning and skills/knowledge acquisition;
- Application Objectives: the actions that stakeholders at all levels will take after the strategic plan is implemented;
- Impact Objectives: tangible and intangible measures based on business measures for the organization; and
- ROI Objectives: developing the appropriate measures and comparing the cost of achieving (or trying to achieve) the strategic plan to its monetary benefits.
Blending a relationship-based approach that incorporates the six objectives, our new process might look like this:
- Collaborate with multiple consulting firms. Gauge their ability to: lead a relationship-based strategic planning process; engage stakeholders in ways that drive the strategic plan; lead purpose design, strategic planning, and objective creation retreats/processes;
- Hire a consultant. Begin with the purpose/aspirations design retreat;
- Engage stakeholders about the purpose and aspirations. Be specific and strategic in what you are asking them to share;
- Host the strategic planning retreat. Stakeholder feedback should provide critical insight into the development of objectives;
- Create board, staff, and volunteer/member objectives for each aspiration (use Phillips’ six categories if needed);
- Between the retreat and the next board meeting, board, staff, and volunteers/members determine their deliverables/due dates related to the aspirations and objectives;
- The next board meeting is a presentation of what board, staff, and volunteer/members have designed / developed (each presentation is led by each of those categories);
- The board, staff, and volunteers/members collaboratively make suggestions and tweaks to amend the plan;
- The staff presents and the board approves the final iteration of the plan;
- Everyone is excited about the strategic plan, and it is shared with members and stakeholders;
- Board, staff, and volunteers/members are responsible for providing performance updates at the regular board meetings;
- The organization adapts and evolves as it achieves its strategic plan.
So far we have explored how to “design the purpose that inspires the plan” (Part 1) and “a relationship-based approach to the strategic plan” (Part 2). In part three, we will explore how we bring the plan to life, inspire the stakeholder and organizational alignment, and produce the velocity that moves everything forward with momentum.
Link to the blog series Part 1: Evolving the Strategic Plan Process: Part 1 – Assemble the Right People to Design the Purpose that Inspires Your Plan