If you work for a nonprofit, you are probably familiar with the strategic planning process. Every organization should have a strategic plan. You need a roadmap to carry out your mission effectively.
However, most leaders get all jazzed up to participate in a strategic planning process but don’t actually know what it is or how to implement it.
What is a strategic plan?
A strategic plan decides the direction of an organization. According to Balanced Scorecard, “Strategic planning is an organizational management activity that is used to set priorities, focus energy and resources, strengthen operations, ensure that employees and other stakeholders are working toward common goals, establish agreement around intended outcomes/results, and assess and adjust the organization’s direction in response to a changing environment.“
Top reasons strategic plans fail
Most strategic plans are well intended but end up gathering dust on the shelf. Here are the top reasons that strategic plans fail.
Lack of Buy In from the Team
You can’t execute strategy without buy in from the team who is going to have to implement it. Your team has to take ownership of the strategic plan in order for it to be successful. You need to gather feedback and invite contribution from staff members for your strategic plan.
Use tools like the ICAT surveys or meetings and face-to-face discussions to gather feedback from the whole organization on topics such as the organization’s mission and vision and the strengths and weaknesses.
Lack of Organizational Alignment
Organizational alignment is the most important first step in any strategic planning process. Alignment means that every person can clearly articulate how their role or job description contributes back to the strategic plan and objectives. Strategic planning should operate as a tool to align various teams within your organization so that everyone, from the board to staff, is on the same page.
It can be really hard for each team to know what they are working towards if there are unclear objectives. Each team needs to know what the strategic objectives are so that they know how their tasks contribute towards the strategic plan.
You can create a strategic framework in which everyone knows what the strategic objectives are then works backwards to identify their goals and tasks to achieve the strategic plan. Run your team meetings based on this framework to identify progress and prioritize projects and department goals.
How to Achieve Your Strategic Plan
You might be wondering what you can do to make your strategic plan successful. Here are five simple and effective ways to achieve your organizational strategic plan.
Identify a Strategic Champion
Most often strategic plans fail because there is no one to own the process and implementation of the plan. To install a successful strategic plan, you need to identify strategic champions and strategic leaders to follow up and ensure that the plan is being executed.
Early on in the strategic plan process you need to identify a strategic champion who will work cross departmentally to keep each team on track with their goals and action items. The Strategic Champion motivates, manages and measures progress of the strategic plan. They meet on a regular basis with the leadership team to ensure organizational alignment.
Define Success Outcomes and Measurement
I am a total data nerd and love measurement and evaluation processes. In order to achieve your strategic plan, you have to know what success looks like. Defining outcomes and evaluating progress will help keep each department accountable by knowing how you are working towards achieving your strategic plan as well as readjusting if needed.
Allocate Budgeted Resources
Oftentimes, organizations make these grand plans in their strategic plans but don’t allocate budgeted resources to achieve it. Nonprofits already operate from a scarcity mindset and believe they don’t have resources to achieve their current goals and programs.
You need to allocate budgeted resources and dollar amounts to each strategic objective.
Excellent Communication and Accountability
Communication is a vital part of executing your strategic plan. You need to have a successful internal and external communication plan related to planning and executing your strategic plan. Communicate early on and often in the strategic planning process.
Accountability is easy to talk about but hard to implement. It needs to an organization wide effort to keep each team accountable from top down.
One of the best things you can do is to highlight and celebrate successes. We often get so caught up in the doing that we forget to pause and see how much progress has been made towards achieving your strategic plan. Be creative in how you celebrate successes. By celebrating successes, you will reinforce the strategy and organizational alignment.
What steps have you found to be effective in achieving your strategic plan? Comment below.