Starting a Strategic Planning Process
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Important Questions to Address before Starting a Strategic Plan

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Important Questions to Address before Starting...

By Eric Ewald, CAE, Vice President of Association Management

What do you want to accomplish?
Take some time as a group to consider, then articulate, your objective for the planning process. Some questions to think about:

  • Are you facing a particular organizational crisis that must be addressed?
  • Do you need to consider changes to your organization’s mission and vision, or are these still largely relevant?
  • Are you looking to develop some long range focus for the organization? How far out?
  • Do you want the planning process to have significant orientation or team building components?

When is the best time for your organization’s planning?
Organizations often time their planning processes to coincide with calendar and fiscal year starts, board cycles and calendars or special events. Sometimes these considerations yield the most logical and convenient time to go through the planning process. Other times it is simply a matter of gauging participants' opinion about the best time of year to invest the time and attention. Find a time that makes the most sense for your organization and is convenient for your participants.

Who should be involved to achieve the best possible outcome?
Think carefully about who can best help you accomplish the objective of the planning process. In addition to the board of directors, consider involving people whose input would be beneficial including volunteers and staff with experience that could help shape good strategy. Involving others becomes even more important when developing specific actions to take to pursue your strategies, because many of these people will be responsible for implementation. They will also have good experience-based insights into effective strategies and actions and you will be better able to generate their buy-in to the action steps developed if they are a part of the process.

What kind of process should you follow?
There are many ways to “do strategic planning.” Many different approaches have been developed by various planners, consultants and educators. Some common elements in most approaches include: re-assessing who you are, what you do and how you do it; examining your history to date; considering your current and future environments; visioning; goal setting and action planning. Talk through the options with your group and session leader to establish the process that will be best for your participants given an articulated objective for the process.

Should an outside facilitator be engaged?
Good facilitators are experts in process and bring neutrality and important facilitation skills to the table. They also carry a cost. Be mindful of choosing a facilitator who is a good fit. In the balance, it is best to have a facilitator who can free all key board members and staff to fully participate in the process and to recommend and manage good process. Decide what will be most effective for your planning given the objectives you have for the planning process.

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