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Spring Cleaning: Strategic Planning Checklist

Spring is the perfect time for getting your “house” in order. The strategic plan could not be a better place to start in your efforts to spruce things up and bring new energy into your environment.

Strategic Planning Overview

The purpose of planning is forward motion.

Strategic planning is a process, not an event. At its best, a strategic plan is a living document that is consulted on a regular basis to guide decision-making. It is a collective compass by which the organization and its members move forward.

The most typical pieces include the vision, mission, rationale/discussion, strategic priorities (3-year targets), goals for addressing each strategic priority and an action plan.

As a strategic planning and communications specialist, I will tell you that the format of your document matters. Nobody has time to read a 40-page document without headings, bullets and numbers. Prepare your strategic plan like you would an executive summary. You want it to be easy to digest on a regular basis.

Leader’s Planning Checklist

If your organization does not have a strategic plan, it is important to get one in place. Schedule a meeting with key decision-makers several months out. The checklist below may help clarify purposes and processes.

If you have a strategic plan, here is a checklist intended to give you some ideas about how to bring it back into focus.

___Find it.

___Read it and make notes on what needs to happen next.

___Recommit to it – personally.

___Establish a team/board meeting to review, revise and recommit to the plan.

___Lead a discussion to rediscover the why, what and how behind the plan.

  • Why is the work of this organization important?

  • What are the strategic priorities and goals that will guide us?

  • How are we going to reach those priorities?

___Create buy-in.

  • During the meeting – ask for recommitment at key strategic points in your meeting (recommit to vision, mission, strategic priorities and actions)

  • Individual buy-in – build in some time for individual goal setting at the meeting (even 10 minutes is beneficial); make sure each person leaves with a clear idea of his/her next steps

  • Before you leave the meeting – have team members state their commitment out loud (e.g., the stop, start, continue model is helpful for this; or you may have them complete a sentence like “I am committed to….”

___Create buy-in again and again and again.

___Review accomplishments with the team.

___Determine next steps (i.e., timeframes, accountabilities and deadlines) before you leave each meeting.

  • The most important step is the NEXT step - make sure everyone knows what to do next.

  • Set specific due dates (i.e., will the group need to report back in 2 weeks, next month? Give the specific date.)

___Hold people accountable.

  • Accountability is an important topic in all organizations. It is important for paid staff as well as for volunteers.

  • Put it in writing. As the leader, you want to make sure that all individuals have goals/commitments in writing.

  • Touch base with individuals. It is your job to touch base with the individuals who promised (or are paid) to do the work. Ask about progress. Help identify obstacles and move projects forward.

  • Safeguard the goals. Reassign if necessary. If reassignment or partnering is necessary to move a goal forward, make it happen.

One Step at a Time

Strategic planning is essential for every organization – no matter how small your membership, staff or board. At its best, it is a process whereby people come together to dream. The takeaways can include collective vision, organizational priorities and goals and individual accountabilities.

If your organization is small and you do not have a plan in place, it may make it feel simpler by starting with the three most important questions:

  • Where are we now?

  • Where would we like to be?

  • How are we going to get there?

Every step taken toward writing things down is progress and takes your organization one step forward.

The act of writing goals is a skill that can be learned. There is someone in your group who generally does it well. Find them and utilize their skills! The results will be a legacy that you and your leaders can pass on to the next generation of leaders.

What do you need to do to “get your house in order” this spring? Let those new bulbs coming up in your front yard inspire you to dust things off and have a fresh start.

There is no better time than 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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