Written by Bob Harris, CAE
Within minutes of adjourning the planning retreat the directors scattered, returning to work after volunteering a day or weekend to create the multi-year strategic plan.
Back at the association office staff were playing catch up. There was temptation to put the new document in a file with other older strategic plans. Or to put the plan in a notebook to collect dust on the bookshelf.
The retreat is like planting a garden. Ideas, strategies and priorities must take root. Without nurturing or attention the plan may die.
“There is nothing more inspiring and rewarding than seeing a strategic plan come to life! It is a living, breathing document that deserves our diligent care. It enables us to remain focused on our purpose, goals and values, and nimble enough to adjust our efforts as issues and trends change,” said Linda Jay, RCE, and CEO at the Bakersfield Association of REALTORS®.
A plan that lingers without taking action will lose momentum. The leadership team has to be resourceful to implement their new plan.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
The phrase “out of sight, out of mind” is true for strategic plans. If it does not hold the attention of the board, committees and staff, it is dead at the starting block.
Here are three methods to fast track implementation by integrating the staff, committees and members. Do all of these within 60 days of the board’s retreat.
Staff are integral to implementation.
If they are excluded from the planning retreat they will be eager to learn the results and how the plan impacts their roles. The board’s meeting often causes unfounded anxiety back at the office, “Will I still have a job?”
Shortly after the board’s retreat, convene staff for a huddle of their own. The staff need to understand aspects of the plan and the rationale that drove decisions.
Discuss the board’s priorities for the years ahead. Spread the plan over three years; don’t attempt to achieve everything in the first year.
Performance measures should be added to the plan to give it traction. While a board might not know such details, the staff can project timelines, growth margins, profitability and retention rates, for instance.
To track progress, create a spreadsheet identifying who is responsible for what and when. Maintain it as a shared document that all staff can update and monitor progress.
Committees supplement the work of the board.
The new plan sets innovative programs and projects that will be delegated to committees. Use task forces, quick action teams and micro-tasks to engage volunteers.
If committees don’t agree or understand, problems will arise. After the planning retreat, assemble committee chairs to discuss how their efforts fit. If they have initiatives underway or recommendations, discuss how they will align with the plan’s new goals and strategies.
Committees should be aligned with the goals. If there are goals without the support of working groups the plan may fail.
Convening all the committees allows for an exchange of ideas. They should collaborate rather than work in silos; not knowing who is doing what. For greater impact, regroup and assess progress six months later.
Joe Fonseca, founding chair of Adapt and Triumph Foundation in Oregon said, “We created our plan to help veterans and challenged athletes. We realized we needed more volunteers and committees to advance the goals.”
To members, the plan should communicate return on investment (ROI). They’ll judge whether or not the board is serving their needs and making best use of resources.
Transform it into marketing pieces. Reduce the high-level details to an information card that can be shared with members and prospects. Create a brochure describing the association’s goals for use with membership recruitment and renewal.
Create a PDF for the website or to distribute to members. Build a PowerPoint to introduce chapters to the plan.
To add emphasis, make it a signature quality document. Have directors sign the plan for members to know who set the direction and takes responsibility for advancing the mission and goals.
There are many techniques to increase the success of a strategic plan. These three can fast track implementation when scheduled within two months of the boards retreat.
Note: Bob Harris, CAE, provides governance tips and templates at www.nonprofitcenter.com.