Friday, May 31, 2013

Tools for Planning

Nonprofits can draw from a broad array of tools to help them connect the qualitative aspirations of their mission and goals to the measurable actions that will lead them there. We’ve illustrated several numbers of Critical Issues in Noprofit Strategy, Planning and Organizational Development with some of these tools, but in Critical Issues #18 which will be out next week, we’ll look at a broader spectrum of them and frame them in a larger context.

Meaningful strategic planning requires an array of tools, skills, experience, judgment and authority.

The responsibility for planning lies with the board. The board can delegate its authority for planning, but unless it is fully committed to the overseeing both the planning and implementation processes, it is unlikely that a strategic plan can be successful.

While strategic planning is not rocket science, it’s also not so simple that you can read the instructions and do it right the first time. You need the judgment to design a process that will work for a specific organization, giving consideration to organizational structure, culture, needs, situation and resources. You need the experience to be able to guide the organization through its best strategic thinking to develop a plan that is ambitious, achievable, measurable and renewable. And you need the skills to manage the process efficiently, draw on the wisdom of all stakeholders, inspire enthusiasm, and develop leadership capacity.

Some rare organizations have all of these resources in-house; others need some assistance in designing or fine-tuning a process even if they can manage it themselves. The cost of not getting every possible advantage out of the planning process (see Critical Issues #1: Why Plan?)—or worse (but not uncommon), having the process lose momentum and end up disappointing everyone—is too great to risk.

If you can do most of the planning work yourself, your organization may well strengthen its strategic focus and develop its leadership more effectively than by any other activity. But some limited advisory services from a consultant with the requisite judgment, experience and skills will likely make an enormous difference in the success of the enterprise.

Within this context, there are many different kinds of planning tools available, from the overall approach or framework, to process systems to individual instruments for specific purposes. When any one of these categories is slighted, the integrity and value of the planning process will likely be compromised. Critical Issues #18 will review frameworks, process systems, and individual instruments.