Everything You Need to Know About Strategic Planning: Part 3

by Caitlin Smith

Did you know highly successful associations and nonprofits report that Strategic Planning has a high impact on overall organizational success? Though Strategic Planning can seem daunting and time consuming, setting aside time to create your organization’s strategic plan is worth it. In our first post of the series, we discussed the basics of Strategic Planning. Then we talked a little about the details. Now let’s discuss what to do when it’s time to implement the plan.

How do I execute my Strategic Plan?

Tactical planning will follow to flesh out the details that will enable successful execution of the strategies. 

To maintain an effective strategic focus, leaders should develop a continuous “parallel process” that involves a wide range of members, staff, and other stakeholders in scanning the internal and external strategic environment, identifying key challenges facing the membership, considering the implications for strategy, and suggesting potential goals and objectives. In an ideal situation, every member and stakeholder would have the opportunity to participate meaningfully in helping shape the associations strategic direction. 

What is everyone’s role in creating and executing the Strategic Plan?

The planning process needs to be owned by the leadership of the association. Usually, this is the board of directors and senior staff. Insights relayed from the frontline staff can prepare the volunteer leaders to be grounded in the members true needs, so that they can plan on the basis of more than just their own perspective. 

Staff should serve as custodians of the environmental scan information, and remind the leaders of the current understanding of relevant factors prior to any planning discussion. 

 Once the plan is adopted, the management team must work to see that the goals and objectives are met through the work of staff and volunteers. It is useful to build regular checkpoints on the strategy into board meetings to ensure the plan remains directionally correct. 

How do I get buy-in from stakeholders?

A standard two- or three-day strategic planning retreat can be effective to focus attention on strategy each year. Increasingly, though, strategic planning conversations are broken down into the component parts and spread over a much longer period. For example, environmental scanning data may be shared in the first meeting, with discussion on what the data means for the organization. The vision and mission might be reviewed and core values updated at the second meeting, goals decided upon at the third, and objectives and strategies defined and assigned to champions and resources at a fourth. A major advantage of this approach is allowing leaders to pause and take stock of what has been decided after each stage. Independent and collaborative consideration of what might come next in the process can then lead to a much more considered, informed, and thoughtful discussion and results. 

It is useful for the board to consider key strategic issues (such as how an emerging technology may be affecting members) as a part of each of its meetings. This often helps to refine the organizations ability to achieve its goals and objectives. 

Where should we communicate the new Strategic Plan?

Once the mission, vision, core values, challenges and opportunities, goals, objectives, and strategies are identified, a concerted effort is needed to share them with all of the volunteers and staff who will make them a reality. Since the process of strategic planning is becoming more continual, this communication also needs to be much more frequent than in the past. 

The association’s website is an excellent place to share the strategy broadly with staff, volunteers, and members. This could also include information on relevant ongoing activities, recent accomplishments, and how members can help to reach the goals. 

Finally, create a tactical plan that will connect the dots between broad strategy and actionable execution of the plan. 

How do I evaluate my efforts?

In evaluating the plan, ask yourself, was the process successful? Does the plan positively move the organization forward? Does it position the organization for future challenges? Is it accepted by the membership and staff? Does it accomplish what the board and executive leaders wanted?

Strategic Planning is incredibly important for any thriving association. Don’t let the fear of tackling this large task keep your association from creating a plan that will help it achieve its goals. Start working on your Strategic Plan today!

Do you need help with your association’s Strategic Planning? Contact IMI Association Executives today! We’ve helped numerous clients not only create their strategic plan, but we’ve then helped them accomplish the goals they want to achieve. Contact us today!

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