How is strategic planning carried out
After deciding to engage in strategic planning, the organization should take the following initial steps:
· List some of the main issues that face the organization. This need not be a complete list, nor does it have to be fully organized. However, knowing some of the concerns of the organization will help those who will be asked to be involved in planning to prepare.
· Decide when the plan should be adopted. Developing and drafting a plan will take a few weeks to a few months depending upon the size and complexity of your organization. The organization should set a future executive meeting to be the target date for adopting the plan.
· Set aside some time for the planning process. Those who will be involved in planning should agree to take time for the planning process. This could involve a few hours a week for several weeks or months. The plan writer, of course, will spend more time than others as s/he will be preparing a document that represents decisions made at planning meetings. It is recommended that the total time frame from starting the planning process to adopting the plan not stretch out for more than three months for a small organization. Large organizations could take six months to a year.
· Decide if a facilitator would be helpful. Some organizations find that an individual who is not directly involved with the organization’s regular work can help them with their planning process.
· Decide who should be involved and how they should be involved in planning. See page 10 for suggestions about the major roles.
· Find a place for the planning meetings to occur. It is often helpful to meet someplace other than the standard meeting location for the organization because a different setting can help members of the group step out of their usual patterns. If the planning is held at your own facility it is easier for others to interrupt your planning session and pull planning participants away from the planning session. The planning location should be comfortable, include tables or other surfaces for participants to write, and have room to move around. Having the ability to provide refreshments for planning participants is also needed. Some organizations use large sheets of paper to record ideas, so having a planning location that permits hanging paper (using masking tape or other non-destructive adhesive) on the walls is ideal.
There are a number of steps in the strategic planning process. It is recommended you complete each step. Some organizations choose to by-pass steps in hopes of reducing the planning time. We recommend you follow all the steps in the appropriate sequence. Although some steps can be time consuming and consensus can be difficult to obtain, the end result is a plan that has support from planning group members and other stakeholders. The recommended steps in the strategic planning process are as follows:
1. Participant Selection
2. Core Ideology [Core Values & Purpose development]
3. Vision and Mission development
4. Goals and Objectives– Big Hairy Audacious Goals [BHAG’s]
5. Performance Audit – Review of Organizational Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats [SWOT]
6. Gap Analysis – Review information gathered from the SWOT and compare the results to your stated goals and objectives.
7. Contingency Planning – Worst and best case scenarios.
8. Integrated Functional Plans – Action Steps/Detailed Plans
9. Implementation Considerations
10. Monitoring And Evaluation
Note: An environmental scanning process that includes the SWOT should take place throughout the strategic planning process. This means you are continually gathering data throughout the planning process to help you make decisions.
How do I gather data and where do I get it from?
Data can be gathered from several sources using various methods. Several data sources for you to consider are as follows:
· The annual/bi-annual budget. What is your budget for this year? What is your budget for the second year of the biennium? How much funding is in each class code and how is that funding used? What are the options for transferring funding from one code to another, if possible? Do you understand all available options for use of a particular funding code? Do all the planning team members know what the budget is and how it is used? If not, they should be brought up-to-date regarding the budget. It is difficult to plan when you don’t know or understand the budget status and process. Are there other funding sources such as grants, registration fees, federal funds, tuitions, etc., that you have access to? What was your budget for the past four years and how was the money spent?
· Legislative mandates, agency rules, regulations and policies. What are your legislative mandates? What are your federal mandates? What are your existing agency rules, regulations and policies? Are the rules, regulations and policies helping you to get where you need to be? Are planning team members familiar with the mandates etc.? Be sure to have planning team members review mandates, rules etc. This information will be crucial to the planning process.
· Previous Plans. Do you have access to previous strategic plans or other organizational plans? If you do, use them to give you a sense of what was attempted in the past.
· Stakeholder input. Successful strategic plans seek input from internal and external stakeholders. Stakeholders include agency personnel [at all levels], citizens, those who fund your programs/services , board members, other organizations affected by your programs/services. Stakeholder input can be gathered in various ways. Two of the more popular and effective ways to gather stakeholder input are surveys and focus groups.
· Surveys. Your planning team can develop a survey to be distributed to stakeholders. You can appoint a few members of the planning team to develop the survey. You’ll need to decide whether the survey sent to internal stakeholders will be the same survey you send to external stakeholders or will components of the survey need to be different for each group. What will the survey look like? What questions will you ask that provide you with the information you need to make decisions? How many questions will you ask? What will be the deadline for returning the survey? Who will be responsible for receiving and tabulating the results of the survey and reporting the results to the planning team?
· Focus Groups. Another popular and effective method for gathering stakeholder input is the use of focus groups. This method is regularly used in the private sector. What is a focus Group? Let’s look at a couple of definitions.
“A small group selected from a wider population and sampled, as by open discussion, for its members’ opinions about or emotional response to a particular subject or area, used especially in market research or political analysis.”
“A form of market research in which a small group of people is gathered to engage in controlled discussions and interviews in order to elicit opinions about particular products or services, candidates or issues, etc.” The above definitions taken from “Your Dictionary.com”.
An internal stakeholder focus group is an excellent way to gather thoughts and feelings about what works well and what is not working well within the organization. However, it may be difficult for employees to honestly share their thoughts and feelings because of fear of reprisal from other organizational members or fear of being ostracized by the organization. If you use internal focus groups to gather information the participants should be volunteers. Volunteers are less likely to fear reprisal or being ostracized. However, an all volunteer focus group, as opposed to a randomly selected group, may present problems of organizational bias. At no time should the organization require employee participation with a focus group. A neutral un-biased facilitator should be used to lead the internal focus group. This may require a facilitator external to the organization.
An external stakeholder focus group is less concerned with reprisal and being ostracized. Citizens, board members, funding agents, other government agency representatives and external stakeholders are generally happy to “tell you what they think” about what your organization does and how you do it. All of these groups are affected by what you do and the processes you use. Input from these people is paramount. Focus group questions should be prepared in advance and the same questions should be asked of each focus group. Focus group facilitators should take care to capture all the responses and may need additional assistance to capture group responses. If you use a focus group [s] to capture organizational information be sure to:
· Reserve a large enough room to handle the group size
· Set aside enough time for people to adequately discuss and answer each question
· Have appropriate and adequate material to capture responses [e.g. flip chart paper, markers, tape or computerized equipment]
· Have refreshments for participants
· Assign someone to type a summary report for the planning team.
Important Note: Survey and focus group questions should help your organization gather information for your SWOT analysis. The SWOT means Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Your questions should seek information regarding stakeholder thoughts and feelings about your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities for growth and/or improvement, and threats your organization will face in attempting to meet its’ goals and objectives. The results of this information gathering will help planners in their decision making process.