Businessman hand arranging wood block with icon business strategy and Action plan, copy space.

4 Elements of Successful Long-Term Planning

One of the essential jobs of the Board of Directors is to prepare its organization and its members for the future. Keeping ahead of industry trends is not an easy task and turning that information into an actionable plan is even harder. However, by committing to the hard work of long-term planning, you will set your organization and those you serve up for success.

Here are four essential elements of successful long-term planning to consider:

Businessman hand arranging wood block with icon business strategy and Action plan, copy space.

1) Understand the forces and trends that may shape your industry in the next decade.

Before you can set your goals, you have to understand what changes are coming for your members and your industry in the next five to ten years. This means asking a lot of questions. How will technology impact your members? How about looming economic or societal changes? Who will your members’ customers be in the future? How will their needs change?

As you explore these questions, recognize areas where you need to do some additional research. You may even decide to bring in an expert to help you explore areas where you do not have such expertise.

After this exploration, you will have a list of changes, challenges, and trends to watch and prepare for.

2) Clarify your organization’s role in meeting these changes.

You will need to review your organization’s mission and vision statements to make sure they will correctly direct your organization to meet the challenges you outlined in step one. There is no need to make this periodic review more difficult than it needs to be. Your mission/vision should be able to serve as a filter for any of the long-term decisions you are making.

By all means, if your mission or vision statement is outdated, unnecessarily cumbersome, or otherwise confusing, then it should be updated into a clear, concise, engaging summary of your organization’s purpose and values. However, if there is general agreement that the spirit of either statement remains relevant to who you are and why you exist, direct the board’s energy toward the other elements of long-term planning rather than wordsmithing.

3) Define the actions you must take to serve this role.

Now it is time to turn your vision into action. Determine what you need to do in the next three to five years to achieve your vision and serve your mission. Be sure to define what actions you must take in the next year to serve the more immediate future as well.

4) Determine what you need to let go of to succeed.

Be willing to let go of the past as you need to. As you take on initiatives to meet new challenges, it is important to evaluate your current programs and services against your revised mission and stop doing the things that do not contribute to your preferred future.

Bonus: 5) Repeat Steps 1 – 4

You are not finished just because you have your new mission, vision, and goals. You must continue to monitor the industry and the assumptions you built your goals on to ensure you are still on track. From the start, determine how often you will revisit your plan, and assign staff and/or board members to watch industry trends, track key performance indicators and bring relevant information to the board’s attention. Lastly, incorporate curiosity and questioning into your meeting agenda to uncover any new information about your industry and member needs that you need to act on. 

Looking for a practical way to get started? Learn how brainstorming could be your solution.