It’s February. Do you know where your strategic plan is?

We’re pleased to bring you this guest blog post from Susan Detwiler of The Detwiler Group.  Susan is a Standards for Excellence Licensed Consultant.  Standards for Excellence Licensed Consultants are an elite group of independent consultants that have been selected by the Standards for Excellence Institute and have received extensive training in using the Standards for Excellence code and program materials for the advancement of their work and the nonprofits and other institutions with whom they work.  To find a Licensed Consultant in your area, check out the online listing of Licensed Consultants. And be sure to follow Susan’s informative blog at detwiler.com.

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You probably spent time and money developing a strategic plan. Your board voted to approve it. Perhaps a board committee created it; maybe your executive director and senior staff.

Where is it now? That big report sitting on the shelf isn’t going to do your organization any good if it’s not a living document.

When did you last pull out the strategic plan and track your progress toward your goals?  When was the last time the board spent more than 10 minutes discussing that progress?

It’s a lovely plan, but…..

A plan without discrete steps, a timeline and accountability isn’t a plan. It’s a wish list. Here are a few tips for maintaining your progress, so that 3 years from now you can look back and say, “We did this!”

  • Make sure you have the will to accomplish the plan. This may seem obvious, but it’s often the first pitfall. “It’s a lovely plan, and really, this is what we want to accomplish. But…..we don’t have the money; the time; the people; the skills”…..whatever.  If you truly commit to the plan, then you find the money, the time, the people, the skills. It may not happen immediately, but it will never happen without making that commitment.
  • Make sure that someone is accountable for each step of the plan. They may not be the person who actually, physically does the work, but someone has to be on top of whether it happens or not. Otherwise, everyone thinks it’s someone else’s job.
  • Have those accountable people regularly report to the board. The entire board voted to move ahead with the plan; the entire board should be invested in whether the plan is being accomplished. If you have to report regularly, then you get it done. If it’s not done, then here’s your opportunity to talk about how to get back on track. 

“If anything is certain, it is that change is certain. The world we are planning for today will not exist in this form tomorrow.”  Phil Crosby

  • Regularly set aside time to discuss the overall progress, not just individual steps. Is the plan still relevant? Do new circumstances warrant changes? No matter how good your plan is, you can’t foresee everything that might happen in the course of three years. The government may cut funding. You may receive a huge bequest. Some new research may come to light.
  • Celebrate the milestones. It took a lot of work to craft the plan. It takes even more work to execute it. Recognize that work and what you accomplish. Tell your stakeholders about your progress. Let these celebrations create momentum to lead you to even higher heights.

Engage your board in keeping the strategic plan a living document. It may sit on a shelf, but it won’t get dusty. You’ll regularly reference it in board meetings, and watch the progress toward your goals. Potential board members will see your commitment, and want to be a part of your growth.

Theodor Herzl wrote,

“If you will it, it is no dream. And if you do not will it, a dream it is and a dream it will stay.

The first step is commitment. If you have the will, you can accomplish the rest.

The post was originally published by the Detwiler Group.  Susan Detwiler is a Standards for Excellence Licensed Consultant who specializes in strategic planning, governance, board excellence and facilitation. Located in the Mid-Atlantic, she works with agencies across the United States. Have some thoughts to share on this subject?  Get in touch with her at sdetwiler@detwiler.com.

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About susandetwiler

26 years for-profit work; 7 years nonprofit; and I see a lot of overlap -- and differences. Let's explore them! Currently consulting to nonprofit organizations in fundraising, strategic planning, leadership development and marketing. Currently also considering how to help people become better philanthropists with their time and money.
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