Strategic planning often has a bad reputation. Too many strategic plans are pro-forma documents that sit on shelves and gather dust. It’s important to review and update your strategic plan to keep it relevant and focused. But, it’s not always easy to determine when those updates need to happen. Here are four scenarios that indicate that it might be time to review your strategic plan:
1. Market forces at work
Your organization – from the programs you run to the people you serve – is often influenced by forces outside of your control. These external forces may include a challenging political environment that is predicted to impact the programs and services you offer or new technologies that may allow you to optimize your processes or better serve your mission. It also may be that other external factors create new challenges and opportunities, such as new demand for your services or changing demographics in the population you serve. Having an up-to-date strategic plan will allow you to reflect on these external forces and help you get on the right track quickly.
2. You’re under new leadership
Does your organization have a new leader? If so, it’s likely he or she is coming in with a sense of vision for the organization. This might even be the reason they were hired! New leaders need a way to engage their stakeholders to build a truly aligned vision and plan. A well-designed strategic planning process can be an extremely effective way for a new leader to engage his or her team in building out and aligning towards a shared vision.
3. You want to attract additional funding
Funders increasingly are looking to put their investment in organizations with a distinctive and compelling purpose. When the strategic planning process is designed as a process to engage stakeholder commitment and illuminate shared values and goals, the result is a strategic plan that funders quite literally are invested in helping you achieve. Having a plan that you are proud to share with current and potential donors will allow you to tell your story, help you articulate your organization’s goals, inspire increased confidence in your work and, hopefully, encourage increased giving.
4. It’s been a while
Let’s face it – as easy as it is to let our strategic plans sit on the shelf and gather dust, having an up-to-date strategic plan is essential. Given the rapid changes in demographics and technology, as well as the stiff competition for attracting donors, it’s important that strategic planning engages and aligns your organization and its stakeholders to a common vision and roadmap. Your strategic plan should accurately reflect your current circumstances and clearly outline your goals for the future.
An effective strategic plan is an incomparable asset to your organization. An effective strategic planning process will help you create a living document that truly guides the priorities and focus month-by-month in your organization. Don’t settle for anything less.
Blue Beyond Consulting helps universities, colleges, and nonprofit organizations with strategic planning and other consulting services that build strong, effective mission-driven organizations. Let us know how we can help you with:
Mara has been a consultant at Blue Beyond since 2015. She specializes in internal communications, employee engagement, strategic planning, and program management. Mara holds a Master’s in Communication Management from USC.