Strategic planning is critical to any association’s future. If your strategic plan is successful, the board and management will be crystal clear on the organization’s purpose, goals and metrics, as well as how to achieve them.
But if things don’t go according to the plan, frustration can set in. Management may feel they are chasing multiple, constantly changing or competing agendas. Boards may feel their expectations are not being met. And the organization’s constituents are left wondering what it is, exactly, that the organization is doing to address their needs.
So how can you tell if your strategic plan is in trouble? Here are five warning signs, along with the actions you can take to course correct.
1. Metrics are not being met.
Does your plan have clearly articulated key performance indicators (KPIs)? Unfortunately, many strategic plans stop short of establishing clearly defined and measurable metrics that consistently gauge progress. If your organization keeps fighting the same battles, take a look at your KPIs and find a way to better articulate the goals and how to achieve them.
If your plan does have clearly defined KPIs but they are not being met, don’t quickly assume someone isn’t doing his or her job. Perhaps you have the wrong metric, or there are barriers to success that the organization must step back and examine.
2. Board members don’t know what the plan is.
Can all board members accurately summarize the goals of the strategic plan? If you aren’t spending some time at each board meeting reviewing these goals, it’s easy for new directors to be unaware of the plan and tenured directors to forget it. Focus on the outlined strategies and goals so that everyone around the board table understands the bigger picture.
3. Your members don’t know you have a plan.
Even engaged members of the organization may not realize their organization has a plan…let alone have any appreciation for what that plan is. The organization should regularly communicate high-level goals so members know and can be proud of what’s going on, and, ideally, help in the pursuit.
4. Your budget is not aligned with your plan.
The strategic plan should drive the budget, not the other way around. Financial priorities should reflect strategic priorities. Ensure you aren’t just budgeting for the same programs and activities each year. Strategic goals typically take multiple years to achieve and likely cannot be implemented all at one time. This will require incremental budget changes or investments each year to ensure the organization is allocating appropriate resources to reach its vision.
5. No one is truly accountable.
Many strategic plans fall short simply because no one has the time to keep the plan moving forward. As management and volunteers return to the daily grind after the strategic planning sessions wrap up, the plan can all too easily be pushed to the back burner until something (i.e. a board meeting or budget prep) forces it back to the forefront. Not working the plan is typically not due to a lack of intent or know-how. It’s more often the reality of having to allocate time to urgent needs while the strategic plan gets continually set aside. Ensure that someone is accountable for pushing the plan forward through regular staff meetings, communications to the board, and other touch points.
An effective and workable strategic plan comes from a disciplined culture that embraces realistic expectations, appreciates the value of effectively planning ahead, facilitates an environment that maximizes proper focus, and provides the appropriate resources to commit to execution.
Know where you’re stumbling and begin to work the problem one step at a time. It’s never too late to start, and the sooner you do the sooner you’ll begin to see results!