Tuesday, March 13, 2012

BIG’s Blog: Why Strategic Plans Fail

As you can imagine, at Browne Innovation Group we are constantly trying to improve our strategic planning process for our clients. With the fundamental shifts fundraisers are facing from 1) generational change, 2) information technology changes, and 3) rising competition for donor dollars, it is not just important that a nonprofit organization’s development group be successful in their strategic planning, it is imperative we collectively “get it right,” as in many cases the very existence of the organization is at stake.

Strategic planning is a very hot topic in today’s fast-changing world. From time to time, Forbes magazine and other business publications have articles related to strategic planning. 10 Reasons Why Strategic Plans Fail caught my eye and I thought I would share the author’s 10 reasons and add my own two key elements that are crucial for successful strategic planning.

  1. Having a plan simply for plans sake.
  2. Not understanding the environment or focusing on results.
  3. Partial commitment.
  4. Not having the right people involved.
  5. Writing the plan and putting it on the shelf.
  6. Unwillingness or inability to change.
  7. Having the wrong people in leadership positions.
  8. Ignoring marketplace reality, facts and assumptions.
  9. No accountability or follow through.
  10. Unrealistic goals or lack of focus and resources.

I’ll bet one or more of the above resonated with you; in fact, maybe all of them did. I urge you to click on the article (above) and get the author’s comments on each of the above points. . . and they are excellent points! In addition to the above list I have added my two key elements below which I have learned are absolutely critical to translating the strategic insights and planning process into actionable results. After all, results are what the whole exercise is about.

Mike’s Two Elements for Successful Strategic Planning:
  1. The strategic insight or advantage that has been identified in the strategic planning process must be incorporated into an operations plan (some call it a business plan) that includes a financial proforma. The financial proforma projects the expected financial results of implementing the strategic plan. In my experience, if the strategic plan does not contain a financial plan it is merely an exercise in futility with no accountability. It never ceases to amaze me the number of commercial and nonprofit organizations that create a strategic plan with no financial accountability. What’s the point?
  1. Almost every organization finds it advantageous to contract with a professional strategic planning facilitator to produce a strategic plan. This is enhanced if the facilitator also brings subject matter expertise to the engagement. It is also highly recommended that whomever you choose to facilitate your organization’s strategic planning process be retained at some level for at least one year into the implementation of the strategic plan. In my experience with hiring consultants over the years – especially those with subject matter expertise - if they know up front that their proverbial butt is also on the line for a successful implementation, it dramatically enhances the outcome. It also acts as a way to weed out those that only “talk the talk” but don’t “walk the walk.”


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