Before beginning, identify why planning is important, who will he responsible for managing the planning process (the planning team), what the plan should achieve, who will he involved in the process, what kind of planning process will he used, the deadline, and whether or not a facilitator will he used.
Terms may need to he defined. For example, the words "goals" and "objectives" are often used as if they are inter-changeable, and many times they're not. Only after these questions have been answered is it is time to do the environmental scan.
The strategic planning process begins with an environmental scan: gathering information about the agency's internal strengths and weaknesses and determining how external trends and changes might impact the agency and its mission over the next few years. This strategic information helps the agency identify the critical issues it must address in its planning process.
There area variety of ways this information can be gathered, including:
If resources are limited or if a preplanning assessment is not possible, the planning participants can answer the strategic questions outlined below at the beginning of the planning retreat. Divide the planning participants into several small groups and ask each group to brainstorm answers and then report back to the full group.
The value of the plan will depend a great deal on the quality of the information gathered in the environmental scan. A comprehensive process would include interviews, focus groups, and/or surveys with all staff, all board members, some program participants, some volunteers, funders, staff from similar agencies, and several community leaders.
Whatever process is chosen, it is essential that the planning team and planning consultant (if used) work collaboratively so the process is always moving toward the desired outcome.
Key Questions for Strategic Planning
The questions used in the environmental scan should be shaped by the kind of outcome the agency hopes to achieve through the strategic planning process. Explore both the external and the internal factors that could impact the agency and/or the implementation of the plan.
In exploring the external factors, the team should address questions such as the following:
Next, conduct an internal analysis of the agency. Questions may include:
In addition to the environmental scan, spend some time identifying what the agency hopes to become in the future Involve board, staff, volunteers, and program users in a brain storming process wherein the agency's goals for the next 5, 10 or 15 years are identified. Be specific. What kind of programming will be done? What will the agency have achieved? What will its reputation he? What will funders say about the agency?
Creating a Strategic Plan
Once this environmental scan and vision of the future is complete, put it into some kind of usable format. It could be a comprehensive report or a list of issues. Present the information at the beginning of the planning retreat or in a meeting with all planning participants (board, staff, volunteers, program users, and community leaders). After reviewing the information, identify the critical issues the agency should address in its strategic plan. With each critical issue, determine the need to set goals, solve problems, or establish a policy or procedure.
In a retreat, divide the planning participants into small groups and ask each group to take a critical issue and develop a response strategy. Included in the strategy should be measurable objectives and a plan of action outlining who does what. Add deadlines and identify resource needs. After goals, objectives, action plans, and resource needs have been developed for each critical issue, develop an overall budget for the entire plan.
Be sure the organization has determined which goals and objectives are priorities. If only one or two goals can be addressed, start with those that are the most important and feasible. Finally, identify' a specific individual who will oversee the implementation of each objective. Someone, even though he or she may not be responsible for the specific actions, must be responsible for the implementation of each objective.
After the plan is finished, develop a strategy for implementation. How will the action steps be incorporated into day-to-day operations? What kind of organizational changes are needed in order to achieve the plan? What role should the board have in implementing the plan? This strategy will also include:
Finally, participants must decide how the plan and planning processes will be evaluated, how often the plan will be updated, and who will be responsible for determining if its objectives are being met.