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Is Your Strategic Plan in the Danger Zone?

What’s the first word that comes to mind when I say, “strategic planning.

If you respond like most people, you probably have some positive and some not-so-positive associations with strategic planning.

Corporations and nonprofits spend millions engaging consultants each year on the creation of strategic plans. But what happens after the meeting? One of my greatest frustrations as a strategic planning consultant are plans that sit on a shelf after a meeting. It’s also a common frustration I hear about from others: “nothing happens after the meeting.”

If your organization has not utilized the results of your strategic planning meeting, you are in the strategic planning danger zone - that place where dollars are spent and nothing happens. Get it out before it's too late!

Here's why: well-crafted plans bridge vision and action. Plans are critical focus and accountability tools. They tell us where we want to go and what do we need to do (this year, quarter, month and/or week).

The truth is – it’s up to you as a leader to ensure that the strategic plan is not in the danger zone. If you have engaged in a strategic planning process that resulted in a plan, dust it off and utilize the collective genius that created it. It’s never too late to reinvigorate attention to your strategic plan.

Here's what you need to know to get out of the danger zone.

What is strategic planning?

Strategic planning is an accountability tool. It’s a way of ensuring forward motion. It does not happen in one day or two. It happens on a daily basis. A strategic planning retreat is the beginning – not the end. It’s a time for coming together, tapping the collective genius, creating buy-in, establishing goals and agreeing on accountabilities.

What are the five basic components of a strategic plan?

  1. Identity statement (i.e., vision, mission and values that express our story – the why behind who we are, what we do, what makes us distinctive and why we do our work).

  2. Strategic priorities (i.e., the areas that you will focus on in the next few years to reach your vision). This is often distilled from a SWOT Analysis (i.e., analysis that explores strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats).

  3. Strategic objectives (i.e., a goal statement for each priority area that states what you plan to DO, in general terms).

  4. Goals (i.e., SMART goal statements that state how you are going to reach each of the strategic objectives over the course of the next year).

  5. Action plan (i.e., the action steps that need to be taken to reach each of the goals – stating what steps need to be taken, who is responsible to take them and a timeframe for implementation).

How can I get my strategic plan out of the danger zone?

  • Access - Make sure people have access to the plan (virtual and or written copy).

  • Exposure - Review the plan with the entire organization.

  • Purpose - Focus on the identity statement and the why behind your work together (finding a motivational and authentic method for delivering this piece is important).

  • Connection - Make sure that each person knows how they fit into the strategic plan (this applies at all levels – I have a simple and effective activity for this that I’d be happy to share with you.

  • Question - Ask great questions – does our plan still express where we need to go? What are our next steps? What are your next steps?

  • Follow-up – Track results at your weekly/monthly meeting. Ask each of your leaders to report progress (successes, roadblocks, next steps).

  • Focus – inevitably there will be budget requests that fall outside of the boundaries of the strategic plan. Weigh the pros and cons of stepping away from the plan.

  • Communicate - Clearly communicate your decisions and your expectations. Make sure your team knows that you have confidence in them.

  • Reward – Track and reward results. Build in assessment points that celebrate success (at the individual, group and organizational level).

Leaders - this is your call to action. Your job is to focus attention on the strategic vision. Ensure accountability (for yourself and others). I know you can do it. Dust off that strategic plan and ensure that you utilize its power – begin today.

© Kathy Sturgis, Ph.D. Kathy is founder of Refreshment Zone and is an organizational and personal development specialist with a doctorate in communication. Contact for more information on motivational programs.

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