It’s a ton of work, but like many challenging undertakings, it’s a worthwhile endeavor. Yet, to fully glean the benefits of the process and the results, front-end preparation is required.
After over 15 years of consulting, I’ve refined relevant preliminary steps for organizational leaders to consider. Preparation touches on several important parts of the process, including:
- establishing an expectation that the consultant isn’t solving the organization’s issues, but rather serving as a guide;
- bringing the organization into the process as accountable partners and leaders;
- distributing responsibility for implementing the resulting changes.
Planning for strategic planning has multiple benefits – for nonprofits and foundations, they gain a better understanding of the process, time commitment, flow and results. For consultants, a significant part of our success depends on the organizations we work with being ready to engage in a change process. Their groundwork leads to much better outcomes.
Strategic planning is a huge organizational learning and engagement opportunity. The discovery process involves fact-finding, sharing, and sense-making involving several steps to guide those involved. Done well, it builds energy in the potential for what will change and become in the future.
These are the planning steps I highly encourage prior to an engagement, where the Board Chair/president and the Executive Director/CEO should consider and complete together.
1. Read the Performance Imperative as a way to provide context and spark thinking toward this effort and the role of the Board and senior leadership. If the organization has an annual budget of $3M or less, also read Small but Mighty – a short framing for the Performance Imperative for smaller organizations.
2. Share key materials with your consulting partner, including:
- Most recent strategic plan
- Theory of Change
- Strategic priority documents and comments to help the consultant to understand what is still relevant and what needs updating
- Staff chart/list and Board list with history of involvement.
3. Clarify the goals of the process
- Where are you going (dreaming of going)?
- What are your strategic challenges?
4. Consider who should be part of the Strategic Planning Task Force (Board, staff, potentially other internal or external stakeholders) – establish a manageable number of people, where each person should:
- Care deeply about future of the organization (over personal needs)
- Dedicate time for a multi-month process
- Contribute to collective wisdom as a collaborator
- Politically make sense (now and for future buy-in)
In my experience, these planning steps are critical pieces for organizations to fully engage and reap the benefits of their investment.
If you have questions or comments or need help clarifying and achieving your goals, please reach out to me - post a comment or contact me via email.