“For every complex problem there is a simple solution; ...and it is always wrong.” Despite the truth of H.L. Mencken’s pithy observation, complex problems can often be factored out into components that can be addressed straightforwardly.
Nonprofits often turn to strategic planning when they see the need to examine what they do and perhaps make some changes. They may need to address a pressing problem or they may be looking to take advantage of a perceived opportunity or to adapt their services or programs to emerging needs or a change in funding. Some of the time strategic planning is precisely what is needed.
At other times, though, strategic planning does not offer the tools or format that can best address the critical issues. When planning objectives are poorly defined, and the tools are not well understood, frustration and failure are likely.
Strategic planning means different things to different people. We place strategic planning into the larger context of integrated planning. By articulating several different kinds of planning and orchestrating them into a comprehensive planning framework, nonprofits can use the concept of integrated planning to develop a more effective planning process and achieve more meaningful results.
At the core of integrated planning are strategic, program, and business planning, the why, what and how of the organization.
Strategic planning is essentially broad- based consensus-building around mission and goals. It draws all stakeholders into a discussion that reinvigorates the sense of communal purpose.
Program planning develops services, programs and delivery mechanisms, and identifies the resources needed to implement them. Much of this work needs to be dealt with very lightly in strategic planning, at the policy level. The details are the prerogative of the executive director and professional staff.
Business planning is as crucial for a non-profit institution as it is in a for- profit business. A business plan details the means by which the organization is to be supported and sustained, determines operational feasibility, and provides the staffing, financial, market, and operational details required. Business planning typically is the responsibility of the Executive Director, CFO, and the board.
There is clearly overlap among these areas of planning, but an understanding of the differences can make planning efforts far more effective.
A regular, integrated cycle of strategic, program and business planning cultivates a culture of planning, which focuses the efforts of the entire organization on critical strategic issues. A comprehensive approach to integrated planning encompasses a number of other areas that support improved management structures and more effective board oversight: organizational development, identity and branding, advancement, human resource, and technology planning, and facility planning.
For more on integrated planning, see www.synthesispartnership.com and sign up for our next webinar on this topic. If the date for the linked webinar has passed, look for an announcement of our next round of Wednesday Webinars.