Home » Strategic Planning: Taming the Beast

Strategic Planning: Taming the Beast


October 28, 2019

Blog posts

Strategic Planning: Taming the Beast

Even though it is absolutely essential, strategic planning is the “bête noire” of many leaders.

If that is your case too, we understand. Rolling out a new service, organizing the next benefit event, preparing an impact study or filling a position that’s been vacant for a few months all take time and energy! And of course you have to be able to take some time out to step back and see the big picture.

Many people wade into their organization’s strategic planning reluctantly at best, while a few rare individuals jump in feet first.

But whatever the level of enthusiasm, I have noticed one thing that the majority of strategic planning exercises have in common: not enough time is spent choosing how to go about it.

As a rule, the organizers start from what was done the last time, take their cues from something a new colleague tried at another organization, or hold a traditional planning retreat. As if the road they take—and the way to approach it—weren’t as important as the destination!

But as I see it, choosing the right approach is in fact the most important step in developing a successful strategic plan. And before you can choose the right approach, you have to ask the right questions! Here’s a rundown.

Who will be involved?

Sortez de votre carnet d’adresses habituel. Pensez à faire participer des bénéficiaires, des bénévoles, des gens de l’extérieur de votre organisation, et pourquoi pas des concurrents!

Get out your usual address book. Consider inviting beneficiaries, volunteers, people from outside your organization and—why not?—maybe even some of your competitors!

Over what period of time?

Three months, six months, perhaps a year? There’s no magic recipe! There are heaps of factors to take into account, including participants’ availability, the complexity of the exercise, timing, pressure from partners and more.

How often will meetings be held and how long will they be?

Is everyone busy? Hold fewer meetings, but make them longer. Are they available, but not for long periods at a time? Hold short meetings instead, but more frequently so you don’t lose your momentum.

Who will moderate?

We all like to promote our own agendas. It’s human nature. So why not call on a moderator from outside your organization, for maximum objectivity?

Where will the meetings be held?

I have always wondered why meetings are almost always held in the same place. If your meeting is primarily a brainstorming session, a park or a co-working space might be exactly what’s needed. Remember that a change of venue can encourage new ideas!

What brainstorming techniques will be used?

While everyone else is seated, one person at the front of the room writes the ideas put forward on a flip chart? Not in 2019, thanks! Instead, use post-its and exercises that encourage everyone to contribute, including individuals who usually don’t speak up as much. Follow my lead and refer to the book Gamestorming for inspiration.

What frameworks should you choose?

Should you use the business model matrix/value proposition combo, or opt instead for the mission, vision and values trio with a SWOT analysis thrown in for good measure? Well, what if you didn’t have to choose just one? (I’ll come back to this point in my next blog!)

All these choices will have a big impact on the depth of your planning exercise and on your organization’s future.

So when it’s time for your next strategic planning exercise, why not take a little more time to consider your options?

And if you want to talk about taming the beast with me, please don’t hesitate! 😉

Talk with Pascal about it