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Making it Stick: What Strategic Planning All Comes Down To

JUST GOT OFF THE PHONE WITH A BOARD PRESIDENT who was checking in with me about the planning process his organization was wrapping up with me.  I told him what I had told the planning committee a week earlier at the end of our last meeting together, "Now the hard work begins.  You've got to summon the discipline to stick to this plan you've created."
My advice wasn't just for the planning committee, although they were the only ones in earshot of my parting words.  Planning committees may think all they have to do is create the written document, and while that is the immediate goal, I think they also have the added responsibility (along with staff leadership) to figure out how to institutionalize it at the board level.  This is especially critical if this is the first plan the organization has ever produced or if the organization has previously failed at following their plans.  So, part of the planning committee's follow-through responsibilities include teaching their board colleagues about the issues and conversations that drove the plan, regularly sharing and expanding on some of the new ideas and information that framed planning meetings, cheerleading for following the plan and celebrating when that occurs. 
In fact, the planning committee and I spent time during our last planning meeting talking quite specifically about how to move the plan to the center of organizational life (something this organization wasn't used to doing).   We considered the following tactics and decided they deserved a place in the planning document:
  • make sure that every planning committee member had a leadership role on all standing committees, thus driving the conversation forward with board colleagues and other volunteers in the small group environment of the committee 
  • restructure standing committees and add new ones to deliver on the plan's strategies (in the case of this organization, creation of several new committees and taskforces were identified in the plan)
  • rewrite (or create for the first time) committee and taskforce job descriptions that mirror goals and strategies in the plan
  • focus the first committee meetings of the new year with a thorough orientation to the plan and those areas of the plan for which each would be responsible (this goes for staff, too)
  • build full board and staff meeting agendas around the goals and strategies of the plan, thus reinforcing the plan as the central, guiding mechanism for the organization's work
  • develop an informational dashboard of key measures that will help the board and staff evaluate their effectiveness in working the plan
  • consider a formal review of the plan at the six-month interval, rather than at 12 months (at least for the first year), again to reinforce vision, mission, goals and strategies
When you consider what has to happen to make a plan stick, writing it is the relatively easy part.

Photo: Knock Knock - Sticky Notes from kardsunlimited


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