Leveraging your learning for broader audience: some inputs on strategic planning -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Leveraging your learning for broader audience: some inputs on strategic planning

By Emmanuel Kwaa

What is a strategic plan?

Allison and Kaye point out that “A strategic plan is a management tool, and like any management tool, it is used for one purpose only–to help an organization do a better job” (p.1). Strategic planning is a systematic process through which an organization agrees on and builds commitment among key stakeholders to priorities, which are essential to its mission and responsive to the operating environment. Strategic plans help an organization sharpen its focus so that all organizational resources are optimally utilized in service of the organization’s mission (Allison and Kaye p.1). A strategic plan usually discusses priorities for three to five 3 - 5 yearswith operational objectives identified for usually one year (Ibid. p. 5).

The need and importance of strategic planning

As Allison and Kaye point out planning alone does not produce results. A plan is a means, not an end in itself. Plans have to be implemented to produce results. However, a well-developed plan increases the chances that the daily activities of the organization will lead to desired results. Planning helps members of the organization focus on the right priorities, and it improves the process of people working together as they pursue these priorities

Allison and Kaye further point out that in helping an organization focus, the strategic plan generates the following:

  • An explicit understanding of the organization’s purpose, business and values among staff, board, and external constituencies, which help to increase the level of commitment of these stakeholders to the organization and its goals.
  • A blue print of action. The strategic plan is a conceptual framework that guides and supports the management and governance of the organization, a framework that orients board and staff as they go about doing the work of the organization.
  • Broad milestones with which to monitor achievement and assess results.
  • Information that can be used to market the organization to the public and to potential funders.

A successful strategic plan improves the process of people working together in that it:

  • Creates a forum for understanding why an organization exists and the shared values that should influence decisions.
  • Foster successful communication and teamwork among the board of directors and staff.
  • Lays the groundwork for meaningful change by stimulating strategic thinking and focusing on what is really important to the organization’s long term success.
  • It brings everyone together to pursue opportunities for better meeting the needs of clients.

Developing a strategic plan

The process of developing a strategic plan can be as complex and detailed as the resources and the circumstance of the organization may permit. The process of preparing the plan may take as few as one or two days of group meetings to as long as four to eight months to prepare (Ibid. pp. 51 – 53). A typical strategic planning process may include key activities such as:

  • Articulating the mission and vision,
  • Assessing the environment; which may involve extensive information gathering,
  • Agreeing on priorities, which may involve analysis of strengths and weakness, threats and opportunities, choosing criteria for use in setting priorities, selecting future core strategies, setting goals and objectives and long range financial projections etc.
  • Putting together the plan itself, in draft review and adopt,
  • Develop annual operating plans for implementation,
  • Monitoring and evaluation.

It must be noted that the process is not static but cyclical and continuous to ensure that the organization will continue to be in focus and perpetually functioning well.

How to implement a plan

The process of implementing the strategic plan is that part of the plan process which calls for the development of annual operating plans or action plans. It is within these annual operating plans that specific responsibilities can be assigned and time lines allocated with budgetary provisions. Without an annual operating or action plan the broad 5 year strategic plan can not be effectively implemented (Ibid. p. 14).

How I am applying the strategic planning information I have learnt over the years Over the years I have come to appreciate the importance of strategic planning in my life and my work. I have come to appreciate the fact that for any organization to operate effectively they need a plan and the more strategic this plan is, the better the organization will operate.

I have therefore always taken the strategic plans of my organization seriously and always known that if we as members of the organization implement the strategic plan it will help us move forward. Strategic plans have helped us take stock of our performance as an organization, and it has also helped us chart out our vision for the future. Strategic planning is therefore an important exercise that every organization has to take time to go through and also make the effort to follow through. It is, indeed, as my former boss referred called it, “the road map to the future.”

Reference:

Allison M. and Kaye J. (1997)
“Strategic Planning for Non Profit Organizations” A Practical Guide and Workbook
John Willey & Sons, Inc.