We go into the New Year with thoughts on our personal goals, but what about the goals for our business or community organisation? 2018 was a year that highlighted to us the benefits of a good 3-5 year strategic plan, irrespective of size of the operation. I put together this article based on real life experience of organisations that are missing out on opportunities because they skipped over some important elements of the strategic planning process.
Ask yourselves, is your strategic plan worth the paper it’s written on? Can you put a figure on the value of your plan and its impact on the customers or community you serve? You would be surprised how a well thought out and effective plan could more than double your revenue and improve your credibility These are the strategic plans that we use for supporting funding proposals for clients. Unfortunately, we don’t see enough of them.
What do these stand out strategic plans look like? What makes them so successful?
Here are five ways to get the value out of your plan, grow your credibility and increase your revenue:
1 Plan for 3-5 years
A strategic plan aims to achieve outcomes over a 3 to 5 year period, not 12 months. Anything less than the longer time frame is operational. To grow or become sustainable requires ingredients such as access to human resources, research and development, governance, finances and infrastructure, as well as the ability to measure your success within realistic time frames. If you haven’t got clearly defined strategic goals, how can you design effective marketing, human resource and financial plans? How can people contribute to the direction of the organisation if it’s not clearly articulated?
2 Get outside help right from the start
If you’re about to put together a new strategic plan, consider engaging an external facilitator from the outset who can assist with the planning, information gathering, facilitation and putting together the final plan. They bring objectivity to the process and benefits include:
- Saving time and resources internally by outsourcing the leg work
- Minimising the risk of undue influence on the shape of the Plan which can occur when an internal person facilitates and drives the content of the plan
- Enabling all parties to fully take part on an equal basis in consultation and discussion when it comes to shaping the plan.
3 Incorporate a well researched situation analysis
Some organisations rely on their inside knowledge and perceptions to guess what is going on in the external environment and to use this limited knowledge to analyse the current situation and future trends. We live in a fast-changing world, so it makes sense that to be strategic and stay ahead of the game, we must review demographic and economic data, competitors, stakeholders and government policy. This is the backbone of innovation. To gain an insight into how a good situation analysis can support a strong 3-5 year outlook, check out local government council plans. Otherwise you might as well pay Gypsy Rose Lee to look into her crystal ball.
4 Goals and strategies are not your programs, products and services
If your focus is in the business, step back and focus on your vision and mission. If you’re going to achieve results programs, products and services are only parts of the equation. Consider ‘how, when, why, who and where’, starting with ‘what’ needs to happen to get us from A to B in x amount of time to help us to achieve y (y = destination goal = vision). When it comes to programs, products and services, use the strategic planning process to think outside the box and come up with some innovative solutions.
5 Measure your results
This is the life essence within the strategic plan that sets apart the winners from the rest. This is the part many strategic plans gloss over, maybe because it is too hard to think about, or an indication that the Board/Committee of Management does not understand its role in setting and monitoring the direction of the organisation. Even some million-dollar operations fail to measure their results beyond the balance sheet.
If you want to position your organisation with credibility, how can you do this without evidence? How do you really know how well the organisation is travelling?
Working with clients both large and small, those who have been able to secure large amounts of funding and/or demonstrate their credibility have the following in place:
- The Board exercises its role in driving the organisation
- It undergoes a diligent strategic planning process which helps to discover gaps and opportunities which they exploit
- They measure improvements. They benchmark, use qualitative and quantitative data and measure in terms of effectiveness and efficiency. They evaluate everything they do, not just for continuous improvement but also to provide proof of the difference they make. Even in socially oriented operations, it is possible to gather testimonials and stories to add emotion and a human touch to the data.
If you were going to put funding into an organisation, which would you prefer? One that demonstrates it has its finger on the pulse, sets its goals and works towards achieving them efficiently and effectively, or one that, when the chips are down, cannot really demonstrate the difference it makes for the people it serves? The clients we work with who do evaluate performance across all areas and also incorporate this in their strategic plan, are the ones we find are most successful in attracting large grants. This is how a well-planned and implemented strategic planning process can more than double your revenue and improve your credibility.
The Community Entrepreneur offers a Strategic Planning service that walks the talk by working with clients who are hungry for innovation and change. We bring energy to the vision and purpose to the mission. If this is you and you are ready to start a new exciting direction, contact Pat or Karen on 03 9005 5889 (email@example.com).