Strategic Planning: How to Start the Conversation

Within most organizations there is usually consensus about the importance of strategic planning and the need to either create one for the first time or update an older version, yet the task seems overwhelming and many wonder where it might even be the right place to start.

What we suggest to our clients is to start by gathering information about your current position, to identify collectively the sticking points that make it relevant to establish goals that will continue to move the organization in the right direction. Below is a chart we put together to visually guide the process:

Strategic Planning 101

Start by pinpointing what you believe are some of the strategic issues, either from an individual perspective or as a board exercise, and keep in mind that these may change and evolve as you gather information and data from additional sources. It is key to be open to having our assumptions challenged, particularly by the communities we serve, so that we can ensure we are delivering on our promise to them.

Once you have brainstormed what you believe to be the strategic issues, pull some market research data to understand the overall state of the industry and the particulars of the environment under which you are operating. And then either through surveys, open discussions and public meetings, engage those who participate of your activities on an ongoing basis to gather their perspective as well as to gain insight into their concerns and expectations so that you can further refine your strategic goals.

The final point in this beginning stages, is to organize the information in a way that helps everyone make sense of it – the information collected should help you have a better understanding of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) and allow you to concisely recognize progress as well as areas that need improvement and refinement in order to continue to progress in a way that is sustainable and that ensures you are taking all stakeholders into account.

The process has many layers to it, and degrees of complexity depending on your existing challenges. We work hand on hand with our clients to facilitate those conversations, make sure everyone feels heard, and create opportunities for collaboration so that the process is open, participatory and impactful.