Strategic Planning is one of those long-revered practices that has gone woefully out of fashion in recent years. Blogs asking "is strategic planning relevant?" and related questions have run rampant. I've worked with nonprofits who think strategic planning is outdated and irrelevant, for sure. They say they need to be "nimble" and "responsive" to community needs. They say a strategic plan will slow them down.
I get it. It takes a lot of time, effort and commitment to develop a strategic plan. It's not easy to do. It can be expensive. And, worst of all, they can be left on the shelf to gather dust. I think we can all agree that this is not a good thing for leaders, or people with allergies.
As to slowing you down, a strategic plan, if you drop everything you're doing to spend a ton of time on SWOTs and other various analyses, yeah, might slow you down. But it doesn't have to be that way.
Here's the thing. Without a strategy, you're just doing stuff without a real goal. Yes, you have your mission, clearly! That matters. But if you don't have a strategy for how to make your mission real in the world, you're spinning your wheels.
If you don't have a plan, well, that's just silly. You're improvising your way to changing the world? Is that right? Good luck with that.
I'm a fan of strategic planning, but it has to actually work. What doesn't work, and don't we all know it, is a fancy schmancy plan that nobody even looks at, much less uses.
What does work is a plan that is simple, clear, concise and actionable.
You've heard the phrase "go slow to go fast," yes? If you haven't, you have now (you're welcome!). Or how about "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?"
Here's a fun secret: planning is not the enemy of innovation. In fact, planning and clarifying strategic priorities and opportunities is the soil in which innovation blooms! If you know what your priorities are, you and your staff, board and volunteers have some boundaries on your work that actually allows innovation to take root, grow and flourish.
The value of this kind of boundary is well documented in just about every book about creativity, design thinking, innovation and ideation. So, it's not just me.
I will give the naysayers this: the processes for creating and implementing (or not) strategic plans are antiquated, bloated and wasteful. Creating a "plan" and ignoring it is simply foolish. Not creating a plan at all is equally foolish.
I'm a fan of the quick and dirty, simple and straightforward strategic action plan. This uses a foundation of business modeling to develop a platform for your nonprofit, your programs, and your future. You can do this alone or in a group (it's best in a group, when you're using it for strategic planning).
I've had the pleasure of developing this kind of plan with organizations who have found the outcome invaluable for their operations, fundraising efforts, evaluation and, yes, the holy grail of earned revenue.
Because you're awesome enough to read this little blog post, I want to give you a heads up about a book about strategic planning that actually works, which I'll be publishing in January. It will be absolutely FREE for five days upon release, and I want to give it to you.
Sign up to get the link as soon as it is live so you don't miss out.
This book will give you a step-by-step guide as to how to facilitate a meaningful, useful, effective strategic planning process, even if you're not a meeting facilitation maven. You'll get the inside scoop about everything you need to develop a strong platform for absolute awesomeness in your organization to accomplish your mission (and look good doing it!, just for good measure).
Oh. And you can do all this planning in just one day. Yep. One day.
I hope you'll join the tribe and get real about strategic planning that works. You CAN change the world. It helps to have a bit of a plan in order to do that.