By Wendy Siegel
Many people downplay the value of strategic planning but in my twenty-two years as a consultant to nonprofit, public service and philanthropic organizations, I find this thinking short-sighted. I have guided meaningful and productive strategic planning for over a hundred organizations, each of which has been driven by its own distinctive issues and set of unique stakeholders who bring their wisdom, knowledge and reflections to the planning table.
While many see the plan with its vision, values, strategic priorities and measures of success as the final goal, it is really the richness of the inquiry process that matters most. I tell clients upfront that the process is as important, if not more so, than the final product. When the members of an organization are invested in thinking deeply about their mission and when they are guided through a disciplined process that gathers fresh information about the environment in which they operate, identifies critical strategic questions that need to be answered, and explores the next steps that make sense for success in the future, most feel satisfied and rewarded for their efforts.
Time and time again, board members tell me that they never really fully understood their respective organizations before engaging in strategic planning. Executive directors like to be able to sit back, listen and reflect without having to manage the process and relationships themselves. Employees get the opportunity to share their ideas and concerns in structured and positive ways. And, community stakeholders such as funders, elected officials, and community residents are given the opportunity to share their insights about an organization’s strengths and weaknesses and offer ideas, sometimes very innovative ones that can truly advance thinking.
One of the biggest barriers to successful strategy development is a lack of engagement by an organization’s board members and/or its executive. If planning is seen as a negative task to be checked off a list, then organizations shouldn’t bother. It only works well when there is commitment and enthusiasm for the intellectual struggle that comes with figuring out what paths lead to a full realization of mission and potential.
Contact us if you are interested in launching a strategic planning process.
Here is what one client has said about our strategic planning consultation:
“We contracted with Millennia to lead us in our strategic planning process shortly after the long-tenured ED retired. As the new leader, I found Wendy’s (Siegel) decades of experience invaluable. She is highly skilled at navigating the many details necessary to establish the vision and direction for an organization. She is knowledgeable about human services in the Chicagoland area and offered resources and insights beyond our planning process. She came very highly recommended by a number of trusted colleagues and did not disappoint. “ Merry Beth Sheets, Executive Director, Hephzibah Children’s Association 2019