Turning Your Strategic Plan Into Strategic Action

“The sneakiest obstacle to meeting your goals is not laziness, but perfectionism. We’re our own worst critics, and if it looks like we’re not going to do something right, we prefer not to do it at all.”- Jon Acuff

Through our work leading strategic planning for membership-based organizations of all sizes, one of the most common challenges organizations face is making the plan “real” after the strategic planning retreat concludes.

When done properly, strategic planning should be transformative to your organization, with a clearly articulated vision of how the established goals will further your mission and better serve your members. But what we see far too often is that many groups have a great deal of passion during the planning retreat that quickly wanes once members get back to their day jobs. This often leads to strategic planning being a “one-and-done” activity, instead of an ongoing focus for the organization.

So how can your organization avoid this pitfall? Based on what we have seen, it is imperative to ensure a plan has clear and focused goals. Goals that are too big lead to perfectionism paralysis due to the risk involved; meanwhile, goals that are too small just feel like a list of tactics to check off rather than a meaningful path forward.

These steps will ensure your strategic plan leads to strategic action:

Make it measurable

Think about your organization’s goals. Are they measurable? Do they have a timeline or end date? It is impossible to hit a goal if there are no guidelines on what defines success. Similarly, a goal with no deadline has no urgency. Develop a plan to measure progress, and put a timeline in place to ensure it remains a strategic priority.

Make it real

What steps are needed to make your goals a reality? For example, if the goal is to increase  engagement by 10%, plan the actions that must be taken to bring that to fruition. Do you need to create new opportunities for engagement? Offer new products or services that will entice new members to become engaged more quickly? Better engage existing members so they can be advocates on your behalf? Change your pricing or dues structure? Change your marketing?  Take a holistic look at achieving the goal and plot the steps required to make a meaningful change. Ensure these steps are well-articulated so everyone is clear on why they matter.

Make it happen

As you progress toward your goal, have goal champions from the Board drive that progress. These champions are tasked with keeping the goal out in front of the Board and staff on a regular basis to ensure progress is being monitored and measured. In addition, keep ongoing stats so you know where you have been and how far you have come. This is the spot where perfectionism can really take hold. Don’t give up if the goal is still far out of reach. Take time to re-evaluate the steps being taken to achieve the goal and search out how they can be improved. It may not be a bad idea to adjust your goal. If the original goal isn’t obtainable with the remaining timeline, change it so you have something realistic to work towards. Perfectionism says this is a failure, but real failure is giving up completely. Taking a risk, setting a course, making adjustments is vital to embrace the disruptors at play in all professions and industries. Perfectionism, or free of risk, puts your association in jeopardy.

Taking these steps from the beginning of the strategic planning and goal-setting process can help your organization establish momentum and ensure that it’s not just a plan, it’s action.

To learn more about strategic planning and start the year on the right track, download our free e-book: How to Prevent Your Strategic Plan From Failing