By Louisa Hackett - The following is a continuation of a previous blog post introducing the Five Questions Driving Organizational Effectiveness.
Strategic plans come in many shapes, serve a variety of purposes and always take time.
The effort devoted to planning can be dramatically reduced if two things happen upfront:First, make sure the reasons for creating a plan are clear and reasonable. And no, creating one just because a funder says you need a plan is not a compelling enough justification to take up a lot of the staff and Board’s time.
Second, the question the planning process is supposed to answer needs to be the right question. Planning presumes something needs to be figured out. And, when you put strategic in front of planning then framing the choices facing an organization (a.k.a. questions) is needed.
Some planning requests arise because an organization needs to revisit their purpose and clarify “why do we exist?” and “do we still need to exist?” (Planning Question #1) Other planning engagements also include a focus on “for whom do we exist?” and “are we reaching, influencing impacting those we intend to?” (Planning Question #2) Once those overall organizational questions are answered, then it is time to move on to program focused questions:
Planning Question #3: What does meaningful success look like?
Planning really comes down to making smart choices given limited resources. How can we make the most of what we have? How can we have the greatest impact? One way is to look upstream and define what success looks like. This is often a fun question to answer. It reminds people why they got into this nonprofit business in the first place. Thinking about what they see when they’ve done a good job can reaffirm that a group is on the right track.
Planning Question #4: What programs and services get us to success?
After defining success, taking a frank look at existing programs and services can help to reveal whether an organization is doing the right thing and focused on the work that is aligned with the organization’s purpose. This can be hard to do because sometimes what an organization does (and maybe is being paid to do) does not line up with what it wants to achieve for whom.
Planning Question #5: How do we manage for effectiveness?
Finally, an organization is able to manage successfully once it is clear what its resources, talent and time are organized to achieve. When the Board and staff know how they contribute to success, it makes it easier to manage for that success.
For more information about how CRE can help you answer these five strategic questions, please visit the Practice Areas section of our website.