Simple steps to a strategic plan: Part 1

As the saying goes, it is like eating an elephant, one bite at a time.

Most organizations and public entities know how important a strategic plan can be to help direct their future efforts. Author and CEO, Michael Wilkinson, suggests five reasons why an organization should have a strategic plan: 

  1. To set direction,
  2. To get everyone on the same page,
  3. To simplify decision-making,
  4. To drive alignment, and
  5. To communicate a message.

It is also important that support for developing the plan come from as high in the organization as possible and that input is sought from all levels of staff, associates– if membership driven, and other key stakeholders. Those who have contributed to the plan may also be the people asked to help implement it, depending on the organizations structure. 

If the contributors are recruited to implement the plan, moving forward can present challenges for the participants, such as lack of skills, knowledge or understanding of where to begin and how to proceed. A clearly defined implementation process will soften confusion and start to establish strong working relationships among the participants of the newly formed teams or committees. 

The following is an example of an implementation timeline developed for a non-profit organization with whom I recently worked. This is only a framework and can easily be adjusted to meet an organizations specific needs. 

The first several steps are usually accomplished quickly by the organizations leadership or board, followed by the first meeting of each goal-related workteam or committee: 

  • Whole Board or Leadership Review
  • Whole Board or Leadership Plan Adoption
  • Confirm/Organize teams or committees around the goals
  • First meeting of teams or committees
    • Determine team/committee chair or co-chairs
    • Chose a recorder – someone responsible for recording and keeping notes and documents
    • Develop a clear statement for the role of the committee
    • Create shared expectations or ground rules by which to operate
    • As a team/committee review
    • Establish team/committee meeting dates for the next 6 -12 months

      • Dates, times, and where to meet (which may include online meetings)
      • Draft an action-oriented or purposeful agenda for the next meeting
      • Share team/committee dates with larger organization (board or leadership)

This Michigan State University Extension series continues with Simple steps to a strategic plan: Part 2 

Michigan State University Extensions’ Leadership and Community Engagement team offer programs, such as Facilitative Leadership and Advanced Facilitative Leadership, that help leaders, managers and citizens build important skills and teach tools that promote effective communication.

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