Many organizations feel that, as long as things are going fine, they don’t need to invest the time and energy into a strategic plan.
However, there are a number of reasons that a board should invest time into strategic thinking and, more importantly, putting that information into a formal strategic plan. If it’s been awhile since your organization has created (or followed) a plan, here are four reasons it’s time for your organization to create a strategic plan.
1. Eliminate frustrations over differing and competing expectations.
Without a clear plan, the organization tends to focus on the here and now, based on current priorities identified by current leadership. Since priorities tend to change during the course of any given year, focus gets pulled and frustrations surface from staff who are trying to juggle multiple, and often time competing, priorities.
A cohesive and well communicated plan can avoid confusion and complaints by ensuring everyone is on the same page with a shared vision for the association.
2. Ensure consistent board and leadership transitions.
Most boards have a degree of turnover each year or so. Too often, as board makeup and leadership changes, without a documented plan to provide continuity, an organization’s energy and focus get derailed. While each board and leader should have the ability to bring their own style to the organization, it’s important to remember that “what” you do as an organization (i.e. who you are) rarely – if ever – changes. “How” you do what you do, on the other hand, is likely to change with some regularity. So while even a good strategic plan is subject to fine tuning and tweaking over its lifetime, the ultimate focus should stay relatively intact and serve as a framework for orientation of new leadership.
3. Avoid Bright Shiny Object Syndrome.
The best plans can’t anticipate every scenario that the association will face over the next 3-5 years. New opportunities will surface along the way, and the board needs to have the ability to consider those things as they occur. However, having a plan in place provides the proper foundation by which to weigh those opportunities so that you’re not tempted to jump at the next great idea that comes along just because it sounds exciting. Instead, the board can objectively evaluate whether the resources required for the shiny new thing warrant taking resources away from the long term plan.
4. Budget to succeed.
Too often, annual operating budgets limit themselves to programs and priorities of the year ahead, rather than beginning to set the stage for strategic priorities in the years ahead. A strategic plan forces you to think about the needs of the organization 3-5 years down the road, rather than just one year at a time. As an example, if you know you will need additional funding for something new in three years, you may need to consider retiring something else this next year in order to begin making the shift that will be needed by year three. Without a plan, organizations tend to focus one year at a time and then wonder why they see little change over the long haul. In other words, your plan should drive your budgeting…your budget shouldn’t drive your plan.
This is certainly not an all-inclusive list of reasons to get your strategic plan into shape. But if you are questioning the need to plan, consider these benefits as a starting point. Develop a strategic plan to avoid needless frustrations, encourage effective leadership transitions, establish healthy evaluation processes, and budget effectively for your future needs. It is the job of the board to ensure these things for the organization, and there is arguably no better tool to do so than an effective strategic plan.