5 Tips for Bringing Your Strategic Plan to Life by Tom Okarma
Does your strategic plan give life to your mission?
Every nonprofit agency has a strategic plan, somewhere. Maybe in a file cabinet, on a credenza, on its website, but they have one. It’s there, you just have to search it out. The problem is, you’d never know it by the way so many just keep doing the same things over and over each year, ending up with similar results.
Every agency wants to improve and get to its next level of performance and impact. Every agency wants to do more for its clients. The problem is, some leaders think that once they have a written strategic plan their job is done. Frankly, their job has barely even begun.
In addition to a strategic plan, agencies need several other things put in play to achieve its strategic plan. Here are some ideas on how to turn your strategic plan into action and to see it accomplished.
1. Create an Implementation Plan
Turn your strategies and plans into actions in order to accomplish strategic objectives and goals. Define who will be responsible to carry out each strategy and achieve the goals. Strategic plans need to be broken down into smaller pieces and assigned to others to implement. If not, everyone will assume the CEO is handling it.
Elements of the strategic plan should make up the agenda for most meetings. At those meetings, those leading implementation should be reporting their progress, any roadblocks they encountered, any surprises, and what help they may need to stay on time and on budget. This eliminates unwelcome surprises late in the game.
2. Build the Burning Platform
The CEO must build the case for the new plan and convince others that it is a critical next step for the agency. This is sometimes called, “Building the Burning Platform.” The message is, “Staying as we are is not an option, we have to go from here to there.”
3. Communicate Clearly and Constantly with Staff and Volunteers
The CEO must own the plan and continue to discuss it and its importance at each staff meeting, leadership team meeting, and board meeting. There must be absolute clarity that anything not fitting under the plan should be eliminated, defunded, and set aside.
4. Set Clear Expectations and Roles
Staff and volunteers need to understand how their role fits into the overall structure and how it helps achieve the established plan and goals. Everyone likes to know that they matter and that their work is important to the mission.
Strategic plans involve change, sometimes hard change. And, not everyone may want to go along with it. The CEO should watch for anyone not getting with the new program. Sure, some may not like it but as long as they can support the move-or, at least go along with it, that works. It is when a few may try to undermine the new plan that a EO really earns his/her pay because now these non adopters must be confronted and either agree to support the plan, or leave the agency.
5. Set a Deadline
Setting interim deadlines for bigger goals or projects helps keep them on track to get it done. It also helps measure progress along the way. Remember to set reasonable goals and deadlines for you and your team. Breaking things down into smaller, more manageable tasks will keep your team focused and motivated.
Strategic planning is a big deal and it is not done every year. There also is the real situation that an agency is still trying to deliver its ongoing, regular services and help people every day while undergoing change. Therefore, a CEO may want have some professional help in making it all happen.
Often, it is best to bring in a consultant to lead the planning effort, help craft the plan, and then help develop the communication and implementation steps to achieve it.
Tom Okarma, as founder of Vantage Point, he helps nonprofit boards and Executive Directors perform at a higher level. Tom also serves on the Christian Leadership Alliance Advisory Council offering insights and direction into Alliance programs.
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