HOW TO MOVE YOUR ORGANIZATION AHEAD WITH STRATEGIC THINKING
From the Editors: We continue our land use series involving training for volunteers to ensure a future for our trails and access. Strategic planning applies to organizations, larger jeep clubs and any effort requiring a better picture of the future.
Bringing the future into land use
The origin of strategic planning can probably be traced to the military and the “sneaky-Pete” operations they are so fond of. Prior to a big operation of a covert nature, small groups of military folks assemble in solitude and visualize the entire mission from start to finish. This visualization process is a walk-through of each step of the operation. Problems are identified; contingencies are developed; and strategies and actions become very apparent by using this process.
Visualization is now an adopted technique for everyone from athletes to doctors to people who want to sell more than their competitors. The reason this has caught on is because it works. It also works for government, bureaucracies and organizations that want to be prepared for the future. Strategic planning is a way of implementing the visualization process.
The development of a strategic plan can be a long, drawn out process; but there are some shortcuts. The plan is usually developed through a series of meetings that produce draft documents that require follow up meetings. Input is gathered on a variety of topics, depending on the slant of the plan. The key to making the process more efficient is twofold;
- Being prepared ahead of time with some thoughts, ideas, and concepts about the organization and the plan; and
- Being committed to the process and following through with assigned tasks.
The outcome is worth the effort. When an organization has a strategic plan that people believe in and are committed to, a metamorphosis occurs. People begin to understand what the organization is about and where it is headed. It becomes easier for those same people to translate that direction to other people. Everyone begins saying the same things and talking from the same sheet of music. Efforts become more coordinated, cohesive, and incredibly effective. Recruitment into the organization increases because of the common message being delivered by all members. The organization moves from just existing, to creating an impact — bringing about change.
One approach to a Strategic Planning Model
One approach to strategic planning that seems to work well consists of the following terminology:
MISSION: the overarching purpose of the organization.
VISION: what the organization looks and thinks like in the future.
VALUES: what the organization believes in.
GOALS: the broad, long-range outcomes or products of the organization.
STRATEGIES: the methods by which the organization will achieve the Goals.
ACTIONS: the specific steps and time lines by which the strategies will be accomplished.
Obviously, this is not the only path to a strategic plan; but it is one that has worked in the past. The plan is usually developed in the sequence as noted above.
First the Mission is clearly outlined and agreed to. This is the same as purpose or calling or aim in life. The Mission identifies the customer and the organizational core services and functions. This needs to be done before the Vision can be developed.
The Vision is a futuristic look at the organization. It is the image or conception of what the organization looks and thinks like. The “visioning” process has been refined over the years into what is sometimes called “futuring.” It means transporting oneself from here and now, to the there and then! Visions are usually worded in the present tense, although they paint a picture of the future as it should/could be.
A Vision also establishes the playing field for future planning and goal setting. All organizational goals should help lead to the Vision of the organization. It becomes the “golden arches” of the organization.
Along with the Vision, it is beneficial to articulate the Values of the organization. Values are the significance of the group, the meaning, the beliefs of the organization. The Values of a local four-wheel drive club, for example, might include a statement like “we believe in responsible four wheeling and family fun.” One would ask the question: “What do we believe in?” in order to determine Values.
Up to this point in the process, the background and “playing field” have been established. Next it is time to set the goal posts — the Goals. Goals are worded in broad language and are usually long term in nature and can be far reaching or all encompassing. For example, in a large organization, one Goal might read: “Have an active presence in every state.” A Goal does not tell how to get there or what are the intermediate steps. It merely places a goal post out in front of where the organization is now.
Strategies, or Objectives…
Given a goal, it is easy to figure out the strategies (also called objectives) needed to achieve that Goal. Strategies can also be thought of as the scheme, or the system, or the “how to get there” steps. They are the methods by which the Goals will be achieved. Some example Strategies for the above-mentioned Goal might read:
- Develop recruitment criteria and budgetary needs for state representatives.
- Set up a test case state representative.
- Establish a state rep in states with significant motorized recreation.
- Develop a mail out campaign for nationwide distribution.
Putting words into Actions…
After Strategies come Actions. Actions put words to work. These are the specific steps by which the Strategies will be achieved. Continuing with the above examples, some Actions for the Strategy on the California state rep might read:
- Develop recruitment criteria and budgetary needs for Calif. state rep by (date and who will do it)
- Adopt recruitment criteria and budget for test case state rep by (date and who will do it).
- Recruit and place Calif state rep by (date and who will do it).
- Provide progress report/update to Board on test case state rep by (date and who will do it).
Actions can be as detailed as needed to ensure that things will get done as per the group agreement. But this is where the plan succeeds or fails. These are the tactics that take the team down the playing field, around the obstacles and through the goal posts.
Actions serve as a yard stick to determine if the Plan is in fact on track.
Make it a living document
Once completed, the Strategic Plan must become a living and dynamic document that is updated and referred to regularly. It should be shared with everyone in the organization. It can be shared with partner organizations and supporters as well.
A good plan should never collect dust on a shelf. All future decisions and policies should be tied to the Plan. It should serve much like a compass does to a back-woods traveler when a directional decision needs to be made. It is brought out at the critical time before the wrong path is chosen.
Strategic planning brings the future into land use.
Learn more in the Recreational Leadership Training Course (RLTC) at http://www.rltc.biz