Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Who Writes a Plan?

IT SEEMS TO ME THAT THE IDEAL PLANNING PROCESS includes many voices along its way from inside and outside the organization. Casting as wide a net as possible for stakeholder opinion and insight can help the plan’s developers frame questions they might never have thought of asking, which can lead to the creation of important criteria by which to filter possible future scenarios. It’s also a way to gain broad buy-in to a final plan, because many people will have had an opportunity to put a point-of-view, an idea, or a warning on the planning table.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

In practice, few organizations are able to take on as much opinion gathering as they or their consultants would like. If truth be told, all that surveying, benchmarking and focus-grouping is time-consuming work requiring as much (or more) coordination as the actual writing of a plan. But it can be so richly rewarding! Organizations that short-circuit this “research” phase of the process, however, go into planning with only internally generated information – necessary, but skewed by the fact that it’s coming from one source.

There does come a point in the planning process when many voices must become one. I believe that transition should begin to occur at some point shortly after the board and staff have had the chance to absorb the external research and generate a number of future scenarios. Many organizations will then turn the process over to a smaller planning team to draft a plan that blends the best scenarios into a cohesive, doable program of action. Some organizations turn the drafting over to staff leadership, while others may turn it over to one or two individuals.

Is there the threat of losing broad support for a plan if it is ultimately drafted by a small handful of people….or by one person? Only if no one else has had a chance to participate in the process at points along the way. The bottom-line success of any plan is that it is cohesive AND doable, and here is where staff and board leadership are critical to its drafting. While built on a broad base of input, the best plans embody focused courses of action on a limited number of strategic targets that have been chosen for their ability to significantly advance the organization toward mission and vision.

Photo: Hands typing on home laptop...from brownstock

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