Thursday, March 16, 2017

Strategic Planning: The World's Most Valuable List

Everyone loves lists! I think it's human nature. Just look at the rise of PowerPoint or Buzzfeed. With something as complex and fluctuating as strategic planning, the easiest way to express it would be a list. The Jossey-Bass Handbook of Nonprofit Leadership and Management provides John M. Bryson's Strategy Change Cycle, so lets examine it and see what value is being created:

1. Initiate and agree on a strategic planning process

2.  Identify organizational mandates

3. Clarify organizational mission and values

4. Assess the external and internal environments to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats

5. Identify the strategic issues facing the organization

6. Formulate strategies to manage the issues

7. Review and adopt the strategic plan

8. Establish an effective organizational vision

9. Develop an effective implementation process

10. Reassess strategies and the strategic planning process

When engaging in any planning work, it's important to ask: What value is being created by this process? Well, in examining the list above, we can see that strategic planning manages assets and thus creates value by making assets more effective and efficient. Here are just a few ways strategic planning is creating this value by streamlining resources -- and yes, it's another list!
  • Reducing redundancy -- Unlike engineering, program development should not have redundancy. Our steps forward should be focused and achievable as to not burden our limited systems more than once to achieve some good. This is reflected in every step, but particularly in steps 6 and 9. By formulating strategies to manage issues, we assure that when problems occur, we won't have to cyclically resolve them, thus taxing our resources and producign redundancy. And when we develop implementation strategies, we assure that in practice, we can achieve some good without over-allocating our resources and creating redundancy.
  • Streamlining our assets and resources -- Similar to reducing redundancy, when we strategically plan, we assure that our available resources are adequate and efficient in developing some good. This prevents us from wasting precious resources and is primarily the target of steps 2 and 4, though streamlining occurs at every point. In step 2, we identify the requirement guidelines of the organization which could be limiting. This prevents us from mission creep and ensures that the approaches developed tie into the mandate parameters. In step 4, by assessing our SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and strengths), we find programmatic overlap that could help us consolidate our resources to achieve a single focus more efficiently. Further, by anticipating weaknesses and threats, we are better able to set goals and direction for our resource utilization.
Even though we love lists, the most important part of strategic planning is that it is non-terminal. The constant evaluations and reassessments means that the process fold in on itself and moves in new directions all the time. Much like this closing, strategic planning is a process that one should implement at all times ad in all areas of their work.

[Former GE CEO John Welch's response to the question 'What makes a good manager'] 
"Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion. Above all else, though, good leaders are open. They go up, down, and around their organization to reach people. They don't stick to the established channels."

Bryson, John & Renz, David. The Jossey-Bass handbook of nonprofit leadership and management, Chapter 8.
Tichy, . Charan, R. (1989) Speed, Simplicity, Self-Confidence: An Interview with Jack Welch. Harvard Business Review.