A one page strategic plan in 60 minutes?

When it comes to strategic planning, many of my non-profit executive director friends tell me that it  is not one their favorite things to do. In fact, many of them told me they would rather have a root canal performed without novocaine than go through a strategic planning process.

I can sympathize with this mindset. Very few people like to wake up in the morning and take a good hard took at themselves in the mirror. Most planning models start with an assessment / evaluation phase, which sometimes feels very harsh and judgmental. If assessment isn’t the objection, then the consensus building process can feel tedious for some people and in some cases it can even become contentious if a few strong-willed individuals hijack the process.

Unfortunately, these objections to planning can erode organizational stability because planning gets put off sometimes forever. Without an organizational blueprint, everything becomes an organic process and decisions get made based upon the loudest voice in the boardroom.

This is not the best way to run a non-profit organization.

When talking to friends who are obviously anti-planning, I usually steer the conversation toward different planning models in an effort to find something that might work better for their circumstances. After all, one size doesn’t fit all . . . right?

Recently, I decided to expand the number of planning models in my consultant toolbox. So, I purchased the following two planning books and started reading:

To be honest, I was a skeptic before I started reading. Now, I am much less so.

If you are looking for a shortcut that results in a comprehensive strategic plan that addresses a variety of strategic issues all condensed down into a one page document, then you will be disappointed. This strategic planning model is interesting, but it cannot perform miracles.

However, if you have one (possibly two) things that need some attention, then this model will work for you. It will help focus your agency those issues into goals, measurable objectives and accountable actionable.

Perhaps, the most important thing to keep in mind is that regardless of the planning model your organization chooses for strategic planning, it still involves engaging a variety of different stakeholders and building consensus around the who-what-where-when-why-how. Most importantly, all planning models must get participants to focus on one key question:

Which parts of this plan am I so excited about that I’m willing to take responsibility for making it happen.”

After all, planning is not an event . . . planning is not about the resulting document . . . planning is an engagement activity.

No strategic planning model will ever change this basic idea.

On a side note, fundraising professionals should look at this planning model because I suspect it would be great to use with a special event fundraising committee or your annual campaign team.

Have you ever employed the 60 minute, one page planning model to anything at your agency? If so, how well did it work for you? What do you attribute to your success or lack of success?

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC