Done well, Strategic Planning creates momentum

by Ginny Trierweiler, Ph.D., Board Certified Coach

I work with leaders and managers with a sense of mission for making the world a better place. But, in spite of our great intentions and our skillful leadership efforts, it doesn’t always go like that. 

I have witnessed– and experienced — organizations “spinning” for months and even years trying to figure out what needs to be addressed or how to best address it. At those times, mission-based leaders are not having fun! They’re frustrated at the wasted energy and the inability to meet goals. When it goes on, it causes them to lose the best leaders, managers, staff, and volunteers. What’s more, ongoing failure to meet goals can make it harder to get the resources they need to fulfill their mission.

So, how do you make the decisions that will result in greater fulfillment of your mission? How do you focus your solutions and adaptions to best increase the positive impact of your organization? 

When you find your staff spinning and realize your interventions are not working to get back on course, it may be time to do some planning. As Todd Zenger argues in his Harvard Business Review article Trial and Error is No Way to Make Strategy (April 24, 2015), leaders tend to be doers but, often, thinking is needed more than doing.   

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to planning that works. You need to identify where to most effectively target change interventions to achieve the greatest increase in focus and momentum.  Here are some of the components you may need to target to achieve the organizational shift that’s needed, the building blocks to impact:

  1. A sustained focus toward a clear purpose;
  2. Skilled leaders with the skills to lead for results and impact;
  3. Effective implementation—which requires effective managers;
  4. The necessary resources to get the work done—time, people, money, equipment;
  5. Demonstrated results showing the impact of your programs and services, in order to sustain support, energy, and practical resources for your mission.


START WITH PRE-PLANNING ASSESSMENT. Which area(s) should you to target to increase your organization’s capacity to achieve great impact? If  leaders or staff are spinning, things are stressful and confusing, and your interventions aren’t working, take some time out to consider the best focus for strategic planning at this time.

Does everyone have a clear sense of direction? Is leadership strong, united and working effectively together? Are managers effective in leading effective implementation of programs, projects, etc.? Which would be of most help right now in terms of freeing up energy to achieving greater impact?  Improved implementation – or greater focus and clarity of purpose?

Is planning needed to regain a clarity of purpose and focus so leaders and managers can achieve desired impact?

PURPOSE:  Once you’ve done this internal assessment and determined what your planning process needs to focus on (A, B, C or other), use that to identify the goal and purpose of the planning process. 

WHO? Once you’ve identified the organizational area that needs improvement, who needs to be involved in planning?  Certainly, the leaders of that area need to participate, but what about other key stakeholders? 

The goal is to end up with the smartest, most effective, implementable plan that will make a difference. Who will add to the effectiveness of the plan?  If there are people who could sabotage it if the plan doesn’t make sense to them, think about how you can involve them.

HOW?  Too often, people think of planning as a one-day event.  It’s a great idea to take at least one day out each year as a leadership retreat to refresh goals and relationships, but planning to solve problems and move an organization seriously forward with momentum is not a one-day event. 

You need to give the process enough time if it is to create real value.  More on this– and other challenges to achieving great results with strategic planning– in upcoming posts.  






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