Benefits of a Well Crafted Strategic Planning Process
By Sam Frank
While the fundamental nature of the basic human needs addressed by non-profits remains constant, changes in external conditions, expectations, funding, and competition can profoundly affect the viability of an individual organization. Everyday operational necessities can obscure important issues and changed situations in a fog of urgent demands.
The critical role of a well-designed planning process is to blast through that vision-limiting fog and find a shared sense of clarity, focus, and direction.
Strategic planning is a formal process that allows a governing board to assess the situation and prospect of the organization, and to chart its future. Pursued wisely, it is also an effective tool for developing in board and staff a meaningful and comprehensive understanding of the workings, constraints and opportunities of the organization. In fact, board and staff development are often the most important products of strategic planning.
In any organization, effective planning requires both leadership and consensus. Various constituencies have their own legitimate concerns and their own limited perspectives, which for them can obscure the critical issues of the institutions larger mission. A well-designed planning process can form the kernel of consensus around which further cooperative developments can take place.
Strategic Planning Builds Consensus around MissionA strategic implementation plan will be valuable for the institution, but often far more important are the benefits of the process of developing it: habits of thought and cooperative participation, exposure to the disparate perspectives of other stakeholders, familiarization of the governing board with the intricacies and contributions of the institutions various constituencies, and a general alertness to concerns of strategic importance. One good definition of strategic planning is building consensus around mission.
To be truly effective, a planning process should be custom-designed to the specific needs and strengths of an institutions structure, culture, situation, and people. A well-designed strategic exercise will make all stakeholders feel involved and valued. It will recognize and incorporate their concerns, but avoid the pitfalls of democratic (or veto-based) decision-making. Such a planning process can be characterized as transparent.
When developed carefully, a transparent process will be: