After the planning retreat: A strategic plan without implementation is nothing
Monday, October 26, 2020
Board retreats create enthusiasm. Ideas are written on a flipchart and groups make recommendations.
The result is a menu of priorities. Everybody feels good about the time they spent creating an envisioned future for the organization.
Soon after the exercise, the daily tasks become the priority. The ideas get placed in a drawer to collect dust. Later in the year you might hear a volunteer ask, “Whatever happened to our strategic plan?”
There are steps to transform the strategic plan into a document with years of value for the organization. Without them, the plan faces an untimely death.
Align Resources: A plan without resources is only a wish list. The good ideas of a retreat will require time and money. The budget may need to be adjusted, projecting new income or expenses.
Committees should be reviewed and aligned with the goals. A goal without volunteer and staff workforce to advance it is likely to fail.
An executive director may recommend adding staff or consultants to tackle new projects.
Inform Members: The plan is more than a board crafted document. It is a tool to communicate value to members. It should answer the question, “What does the association do for me?” Transform it into a brochure that instills confidence in the leadership and set direction.
The plan can help distinguish the association from similar or competitive organizations.
Create business cards for board members, placemats for the board table, pop-up banners for meetings, and glossy brochures based on the strategic plan. Maximize innovative uses for the plan.
Performance Metrics: A plan has traction when performance measures are added. It is easy to suggest, “We should increase membership.” Set realistic metrics, for instance, “membership growth by 5 percent net per quarter.”
Performance metrics support accountability. Members will ask the leadership about progress and metrics will give them confidence that programs are advancing. If KPIs are not suggested at the retreat, the officers and staff can add them afterwards.
Track Progress and Update: The plan is a document that should be tracked, similar to a budget. Without reporting progress, it is likely to stagnate. Issues will arise that distract the board from the roadmap they set.
The staff may create a program of work. It often takes the form of a horizontal template to track assignments, metrics, and deadlines by month or quarter.
Appoint plan or goal champions to report on progress at board meetings. Add “plan update” as an agenda item. Annually assess progress and make adjustments as opportunities and threats arise.
The plan’s useful life can be extended a year or more without needing to hold another retreat. If the board got the plan “right” at the original retreat, then much of it will remain the same in coming years with tweaks to keep it relevant.
To guide implementation, ASAE published “Strategic Integration” in 2019. It includes recommendations and examples for keeping the plan integral to the association.
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