Greetings from Room40,
The other day, I was asked what makes a great strategic plan. I had a one-word answer, “Process”. Not process for the sake of process – we don’t have patience for that. Process that engages stakeholders, creates space for data and analysis, allows for iteration and sets up for testing and refining. It’s a slightly odd answer from a bunch of self-professed data-junkies who like better decisions faster. Not a lot of room for “process” if you’re oriented that way. And that’s exactly why it’s important and is central to our approach.
“So, data-junkies who value process, what is this approach you’re talking about?” We’re so glad you asked. Here it is. As always, if we can help you and your organization improve, grow, and change, drop us a line.
Seven Habits of Highly Successful Strategic Planning Processes
(How about we just use SHHSSPP for short?)
1. Engage people. There are no great strategies, just strategies well implemented. One of the most critical steps in maximizing impact is getting your team on board by involving them in the process. We balance input and perspectives from national and local leadership at the staff and board levels, front line to executive, program to back office. We build this in from the beginning to get important input, educate and empower those involved, and create support for the plan as it is developed.
2. Write your narrative. We start the project by defining the narrative for the organization: Where are we today? Where do we want to be tomorrow? What is our vision of the future? This simple, short story will align your leadership on the front end and ground future conversations with staff and stakeholders on the important values and vision underpinning the organization’s next chapter.
3. Develop a hypothesis. Next, we help you develop a strong and testable hypothesis for how you will move from today to tomorrow. This will help us identify and prioritize the most critical decisions you need to make, and the specific data we collectively need to validate (or improve) the hypothesis.
4. Conduct analysis. With the narrative and hypothesis to guide our efforts, we overlay quantitative and qualitative data, judgement and opinions to inform, validate and revise our thinking. We conduct both internal analysis (programs, operations, financials) and external analysis (competitors, partners, geographic fit, funding options). Our Internal work builds on what you already know about your organization, supplemented with interviews and additional analysis. Our external work brings to the table new research, data and analysis about different the different opportunities and challenges that shape the context for your work.
5. Create scenarios. The narrative, hypothesis and analysis come together to inform your organization’s decisions about its future. To facilitate the decision-making, we believe in the power of developing several scenarios that offer distinct and competing views of what the organization will be doing in the future. These scenarios will be intentionally provocative. They elicit reactions that help us identify what will be embraced and challenging among the options. They open up a conversation about why. It’s not unusual to like the reach of one scenario, the depth of another and the funding model of the third. Some things are incompatible. Others can be integrated. In the end we can’t do everything and so we’ll have to choose.
6. Put together the plan. With the future vision decided, we develop a plan for how to get there informed by all we have learned about the organization and its external context. This becomes the document that guides you internally and rallies your supporters externally.
7. Get ready for Implementation and change management. Finding the “what”, or answer, is only the beginning. Arguably, the harder work begins with the “how”, or changes in behavior, staff, systems, and process… and that requires a clear articulation of the “why.” We can’t do that for you, but we draw on our executive experience leading similar efforts, our wins and our failures, to help you do it better.
Tah-dah! Just like that. Drop us a line if you have questions or stories to share. We’d love to hear from you.
Yours in pursuit of HSSPP,
Anna, Ben, George and Harleen