How to build a plan that works for your team
Whether your team includes two people or 100, strategic planning is a vital component in your long term strategy for making an impact. A strategic plan is an organized, intentional way of gathering input from all members of your organization to develop realistic and attainable goals that will steer your team towards success. It essentially functions as your magnum opus — housing the purpose, strategy and core values that guide your operation in the present day and for years to come.
But why now?
In the age of COVID-19 and the continuing crises that 2020 continues to offer, it is easy to think that now is not the time for strategic planning, and that it will be better to wait until things are calmer and your team can meet in person.
In fact, now is exactly the time to invest in strategic planning for these reasons:
- There is no end-date for the pandemic and the economic crisis that extends from it, and there is heightened urgency for organizations to be crystal clear on their vision and goals – as well as their plans for realizing both.
- The organizations that fare the best in these trying times are those that will create unity and alignment among their teams with why their organization matters, and how each team member can contribute to realizing the collectively held vision. Strategic planning processes create and/or strengthen these vital elements of strong change-making organizations.
- Planning sessions on Zoom are different, but they work. They tend to be shorter with more frequent breaks, and while it’s not the same as being in a room together, breakout rooms and creative methods such as digital white boards make it very doable and still effective.
- It’s easier to schedule at the moment with travel limitations and limited social options. Make the most of flexible calendars for busy people and get it on the schedule now.
Three rules for effective strategic planning
At Javelina, we do a lot of strategic planning for nonprofit, political and business clients and our philosophy is that the best strategic plans seek to create intentional alignment between your core values and purpose and your day-to-day actions and operations.
These kinds of strategic plans recognize that creating change is a process and not merely an outcome. Because of this, they serve to build capacity for your organization over time, allowing you to deepen your impact. That’s the kind of strategic plan worth investing time in.
In our strategic planning experience, here are the things that set up organizations for greatest success:
1. Give yourself enough time
The biggest mistake most groups make is not giving enough space for crafting a strategic plan. The process includes pre-planning, the strategic planning process itself, and time for follow up and implementation. From the moment the words “strategic planning” first enter your mind, to the moment the plan is finalized and shared with all stakeholders, should ideally be 4-6 months. The most effective strategic plans continue to be referred to as a team on a regular basis.
2. Appoint a steering committee
Ideally, a group of 2-8 people (depending on the overall size of your organization) will guide the strategic planning process from beginning to end. It can include staff, board members, volunteers and other stakeholders in your work. The steering committee guides the process and creates opportunities for all stakeholders to participate in intentional ways. This could include surveys, interviews, brainstorming sessions and any other creative methods you can think of! It’s important that the same people serve on the committee all the way through the process, providing an invaluable consistency and perspective throughout.
3. Create a framework, not a plan
The best strategic plans provide guidance on the overall strategic direction for your organization, without giving a prescribed step-by-step plan of who will do what and by when. This is because – as 2020 has reminded us – we have very little control over external events and our best laid plans are just asking to be interrupted.
You don’t want to come out of your planning process with a step-by-step action plan that will be out of date before you’ve finished printing the document. Instead, we want to create a framework that will guide your actions but can be flexible and responsive to variable factors like staffing, funding, community trends and world events.
Start your strategic planning process today
While the process may seem daunting at first, the right set of tools can set you up for success. And lucky for you, we’ve prepared the ultimate planning checklist! Follow this strategic planning checklist to navigate the first steps of building your plan. Start at the top and take it one step at a time. And remember, your future self is already thanking you.