Strategic Planning Simplified

Strategic Planning Simplified

Our leadership research shows that having a written strategic plan makes leading much easier. But a quick search on “strategic planning template” or “strategic plans” generates millions of results. At The Concord Leadership Group, we like to simplify the process. When we work with organizations, we go through these four questions:

(1) WHAT ARE WE DOING AND WHY ARE WE DOING IT?

This part of the strategic planning process commonly involves a mission statement expressing what the organization does and why, and an inspiring vision statement about what the future can hold. We also work to help the organization uncover guiding values or principles to help them handle new challenges and seize new opportunities as they arise.

(2) HOW ARE WE GOING TO GET IT DONE?

The first stage naturally leads to outlining the goals or measurable objectives that will help the organization make its dreams real. Sometimes this includes detailing the activities to accomplish those goals. Many organizations find a SWOT analysis or situational assessment helps them take stock of the current climate and anticipate challenges and opportunities ahead.

(3) HOW WILL WE FUND IT?

An important step in the process is determining what resources the organization needs to accomplish its goals. Alarmingly, our research shows that 62% of organizations do not even include this in their strategic planning! One danger at this stage is only following a restrictive definition of funding. Doing that will cause “funding” to exclusively focus on money — fees, reimbursements, grants, sponsorships, and donations. But there are multiple ways to resource your goals. For examples, a SWOT analysis completed in the previous stage might produce some possibly collaborative partnerships. These partnerships could help an organization achieve their strategic goals without needed to spend money.

(4) WHO WILL WE TELL ABOUT IT?

While many organizations would stop there, we go a bit further. Even the best strategic plan in the world is made exponentially better when people know about the great work the organization is accomplishing. So the fourth stage involves the process for telling the story. We discuss possible assessments that might help quantify the difference an organization is making. We explore identifying advocacy partners who’ll help share the story. And we look at the internal and external audiences we need to remember to communicate with. So the strategic planning process can address staff relations, both sharing the story with the staff and making sure they have some aspects of the strategic plan in their regular performance reviews. It also includes looking at the wider community, like donors, but also the media, and even elected officials.

Strategic planning can be incredibly complicated. We’ve found this simplified approach of working through each stage helps organizations actually live out their strategic plan, rather than having it collect dust on a shelf.