Just say NO to planning for the sake of planning

It happens all the time in my line of work. A new executive director or board president gets it in their head that they need a strategic plan because it “cures all that ails you“.  With this vision, they call a planning consultant to facilitate creation of this perfect solution. Of course, the problem is that . . .

Not everyone is ready for strategic planning

The other day I was clicking around the internet looking for readiness assessment tools to share with a client, and I came across a wonderful white paper published by the The Nonprofit Center at La Salle University’s School of Business. It identified the following five instances when many non-profit organizations tend to instinctively reach for the strategic planning tool and should definitely resist doing so:

  1. not readyWhen they are in (or starting to slide into) financial crisis
  2. When the board realizes the executive director “isn’t right” for the organization
  3. The board is fuzzy when it comes to their roles and responsibilities
  4. There is tension throughout the organization (either in the boardroom or on the front line)
  5. There is a pervasive attitude of “We don’t do it that way” or “We tried that and it didn’t work”)

When any of these circumstances are present, then strategic planning isn’t something you should engage in. Click here to read more of that article from The Nonprofit Center. They offer some nice solutions to each of these five situations.
Of course, even if your agency passes this initial test, there are still additional readiness questions you should ask before proceeding. The following are just a few questions I found online embedded in a survey tool developed by the Community Foundation of Monterey County:

  • Is our board proactive in preparing for the future instead of waiting for emergencies to react?
  • Are key community leaders and partners willing to participate in our planning process in a meaningful way?
  • Are the board and staff knowledgeable about current trends in nonprofit management?
  • Does our organization keep good records? Does it use data to support decision‐making?
  • Are board and management aware of the time and resources required to engage in meaningful strategic planning?

There are 10 other readiness assessment questions included in that tool. Click here to read more from the Community Foundation of Monterey County about strategic planning readiness.
questions2My advice to those of you considering a strategic planning engagement is:

  • ask yourself a few questions first
  • make sure the right people are sitting around the table for a potential planning engagement
  • engage a variety of key stakeholders in a collaborative discussion around readiness
  • do a little research about various planning models
  • develop an informed decision about which planning model fits your internal and external circumstances
  • if you decide to hire an external consultant . . . define the project, develop and RFP, and hire someone with experience using the planning model you’ve chosen
  • if you decide against strategic planning, what needs to happen to position the agency for planning and who is doing what and by when to address those issues

Are you considering strategic planning for your non-profit organization? What considerations are you weighing? Who is involved in this decision? Please scroll down and use the comment box to share your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
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