Seven Tips to Update Your Strategic Plan

Thoughtware Article Published: May 13, 2020
Advisor and client meeting over paperwork

The SARS-CoV-2 virus and the incidence of COVID-19 crisis have thrown many organizations into a state of chaos, floundering for their survival. As organizations of all sizes and types scramble to protect their programs and services, the need for clarity and a clear path forward is important now more than ever.

One of the best ways to achieve clarity and help unite your team toward a common goal is to develop an updated strategic plan.
1. Commit to the Process

It takes time and resources to develop an effective strategic plan. If the board and senior leadership aren’t willing to take a hands-on approach or allocate necessary resources to the process, it won’t work. From initial planning to the board retreat and writing of the plan, the process requires an investment. Make sure your entire team is ready and fully committed to the process.

2. Use an Integrated Approach

Strategic plans are successful when they’re developed with the whole operation in mind. An effective plan ties into and directly supports other aspects of the organization such as programming, human resources, finances and marketing. Each component leads to the fulfillment of stated goals and outcomes within the strategic plan.

3. Let Evidence Guide You

In the early stages of the planning process, compile a packet of facts and figures relating to your organization’s focus area. Your work is too important to be based on anything but credible evidence. Every decision made about programs and services should be based on trustworthy sources, not anecdotal information or hearsay. Your data packet might include stats on poverty rates, demographic changes, crime reports, health reports and your program metrics. The packet should be read by all planning participants and used in decision making.

4. Seek Multiple Perspectives

Organizations can become myopic and lose the ability to view their work from a broader perspective. To avoid this shortsightedness, make your planning process inclusive. Involve representatives who have a stake in your program’s success, such as school representatives, law enforcement, business leaders and even other organizations. All have a vested interest in your success and can bring a balanced perspective to your work. In addition, when other stakeholders have a say in developing your path forward, they’re much more likely to have buy-in and offer support once it’s being implemented.

5. Build from the Bottom

Your organization’s foundation is built on 1) a clear and focused mission statement that explains what you do, 2) belief statements that describe the values on which you operate and 3) an aspirational vision statement that provides a concise and vivid image of the world you’re trying to create. These essential elements should be developed (or refined) in the earliest stage of the process. All other plan components are driven by these and come later. Every strategy and activity should be built on and ultimately lead to accomplishing your mission and vision.

Although strong mission and vision statements don’t change often, they should be revisited periodically. Changes in demographics, the economy and other areas can cause your statements to become obsolete and ineffective. 

6. Share Responsibility

There’s a tendency, especially in smaller organizations, to assign all of the plan’s tasks to the executive director (possibly the only paid employee). Avoid doing this. Assigning dozens of new tasks to an already overloaded person is a surefire path to failure. A well-balanced plan spreads responsibilities evenly and doesn’t overload any one person. Board members must work alongside staff and have an active role in carrying out the plan.

7. Execute with Openness

Your plan’s success requires accountability and honesty. Avoid the “dusty shelf” syndrome by revisiting the plan’s goals and outcomes at each board meeting. Hold one another accountable for progress. Are you reaching your benchmark indicators of success? Are adjustments needed? 

Organizations are accountable to a variety of audiences. First and foremost, they’re accountable to the community and individuals who rely on the organizations’ important programs and services to help make life better. Second, they’re accountable to their donors, fulfilling a promise to make good use of precious resources. And third, they’re accountable to each other. The staff and board must hold one another responsible to do the work with integrity and excellence.  

In a world of ever-increasing demands for services and limited resources, you can’t afford to get off track or lack focus. When created with excellence and intention, a strategic plan could help invigorate and unite your organization toward mission success.  

As with most topics related to COVID-19, changes are being made rapidly. Please note that this information is current as of the date of publication. If you need help developing your organization’s strategic plan, contact your BKD Trusted Advisor or use the Contact Us form below.

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