Monday, February 24, 2014
Strategic Plan. No. Not exactly.
What organizations need is a Strategy – an overarching general explanation of how they are going to guide their performance during the coming years. Then they need to build specific Plans to implement the Strategy.
The Strategy should be targeted toward Strategic Stretch Goals that are designed to significantly enhance the Mission Impact of the organization. The Strategy explains, generally, how the organization will Leverage its Strengths, Fortify its Weaknesses, Seize its Opportunities, and Block its Threats as it pursues the goals.
Once the Strategy is set, then the Strategy Implementation process begins with Planning. Specific Plans are guided by the themes of the Strategy as the organization pursues the goals. Plans are detailed, but fluid. Ideas for achieving the goals are developed and implemented. Sometimes the ideas work, sometimes they don’t. If they don’t work, then new plans need to be created. As the new plans are created they continue to be informed by the Strategy. The Strategy is constant (unless something in the environment dramatically changes). The Plans change as necessary to accomplish the goals.
Strategy = general & constant.
Plans = specific & fluid.
So, in a way, the term “Strategic Plan” is an oxymoron – a contradiction in terms.
Focus first on creating your Strategy. It will guide you for the coming years. Then let the implementation process begin and allow the Strategy to guide you as you make your Plans. This is the path toward increased Mission Impact.
Posted by Dr. Rob Sheehan at 3:18 PM
Thursday, February 13, 2014
Conducting SWOT analysis (identifying an organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) is one of the most commonly used activities in strategic planning. It is also an activity most often done poorly. Here are three ideas to improve your SWOTing:
1. Be Systematic. Don’t just ask people on your strategic planning committee what they think your SWOTs are. Use an assessment tool or framework so that you can systematically think through your SWOTs. For organization assessments, you can read more here about the VPP/McKinsey assessment tool and for Board Assessment you can learn more here about a tool from BoardSource.
2. Seek External Input. Go beyond your strategic planning group to solicit SWOTs. What does the staff think, what do donors think, what do your clients think? You want to get a divergence of ideas and perspectives. Make sure to collect environmental data from external sources so you can consider facts, not just opinions.
3. Get Relevant. When you decide which SWOTs are most important to keep in mind during strategy formulation, challenge yourselves on the relevance of each item. How will we leverage this Strength to move toward our goals and vision? How will fortifying this Weakness help us move forward? Why will seizing this Opportunity allow us to catapult ourselves into the future? What is it about this Threat that could derail us? If you cannot provide solid answers to these questions then the particular SWOT you are discussing is not relevant. Identify those that are.
Accurately identifying your SWOTs sets you up to identify strategic actions that will move you forward toward your goals and vision. Take the time to improve your SWOTing process so you can make an improved Mission Impact.
Posted by Dr. Rob Sheehan at 10:58 AM