Posts Tagged ‘strategic plans’

Strategic-PlanningI offer this confession to you in case you are leading an organization, a church, or a ministry and find yourself in a similar circumstance:

In September 2012, the Board of Directors for Let’s Start Talking  met by teleconference for one of our three regular meetings.  At the very end of this meeting, one of the directors brought up—again—the question of whether I (Executive Director) had made any progress towards implementing the board’s desire for LST to develop a strategic plan.

I had not been really keen on the idea, so I had used the fact that the board wanted to hire outside assistance and the costs that such assistance would involve as an excuse to drag my feet on the whole process.

With polite and kind words, the board made it very clear to me that they really wanted this to happen and that I should quit resisting.  I admit to being more than a little irritated about being pushed, but I do serve at their pleasure, so I reluctantly acquiesced.  (By the way, Sherrylee sided with the board, so if I was going to have peace at home, I was going to have to cooperate as well!)

Perhaps, the one good decision I made that day was to do what I was told to do!  Now I not only see their wisdom, but I’ve enjoyed the process and believe that the money, time, and effort were well spent and will benefit the ministry and the mission immensely.

Here was our timeline:

September 2012       Decision to proceed with strategic plan and to hire a coach to assist

Dec/Jan 2013           Search for strategic planning coach.  Mike Bonem hired Jan. 15

February 2013          Bonem meets with LST board/ Kick-off of strategic planning

March 2013               Debrief board and prepare surveys and database lists for data gathering. Begin collecting data from outside surveys

April 2013                  Staff workshop;  Senior staff assimilates all input into 6-8 major objectives

May 2013                   Board meets to assimilate all input and suggests major objects. Determination that Board and senior staff lists were virtually identical.  Executive Director assigned to create working list of objectives and begin developing appropriate strategies.

June, July, August  ED with regular input from coach develops the concrete strategies and actions plans for each ministry objective

End of August          The first draft of the strategic plan is submitted to LST senior staff, the coach, and the board of directors

September                 Revisioning and reviews

Sept. 29, 2013          The strategic plan was presented for final adoption to the board of directors. With some amendments, the plan was approved.

October 2013            The final plan was distributed to the board and to the staff.


The following steps should occur after the process has been completed:

  • Announce the objectives appropriately.  This does not mean you publish it as is to everyone you know, but my experience is that if you don’t tell people what you are planning to do, then you are not really committed to it yet!  Or you are too afraid of failure!  Announce the objectives, perhaps even individually at different times, but your community needs to know that you are thinking strategically and the direction you are going, so that they can be as fully committed to you as you desire.
  • Do not make the mistake of trying to do everything at once. Your plan should have included a timeline for action items. If you don’t have a timeline for your action items, now is the time to create it—with a big dose of realistic expectations!
  • Plan immediately when you and your board will review the strategic plan? The plan should be available at all future board meetings until everyone becomes very familiar with it.  Using it as a checklist against reality will become natural.  Sometimes you will want to change what you are doing to match the plan; other times, you may want to change the plan to match a new reality.
  • Be clear on the timeframe that the plan encompasses. What this suggests, of course, is that this plan has a pre-determined lifespan.  Don’t wait until it dies to start the process again for the next one.  If you will stop and review the process you have just gone through, you may capture some ideas that will help the next strategic planning process go more smoothly or produce better results.

Finally, this verse has long been one that has brought peace to my soul when I feel the burden of leadership, especially with looking into an uncertain future. I offer it to you at the end of this series as my best advice.  Believe it!

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
    and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
    for he gives to his beloved sleep 

                        Psalm 127:1-2


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Strategic-PlanningI’ve heard that most airplane crashes happen in the first two minutes of take-off or the last two minutes in landing!  I’ve also read that the majority of car wrecks happen within two miles of home!  Do you get my drift here?

Finish the written strategic plan strong. You have put so much work into it that you can hardly imagine that you might not finish strong, so let me just point out a few of the traps and make a couple of suggestions for landing the written strategic plan.

Trap #1          Being tired of the process is not the same as finishing!  You have put in so many hours, often weeks and months worth of work, not just in the writing process, but also in the surveying, the analyzing, the focus groups, the drafting, the revisioning processes, that it is just time to deliver this baby!  The temptation is to draw the line today and deliver it to the board . . . . but that’s not finishing. That’s just stopping—and there is a big difference!

Trap #2          The deadline can become more important than finishing well. Should a pilot that is coming in for landing too fast just risk it, or should he pull up and go around again.  Of the many factors that must be considered, getting the passengers to the gate on time is not one of the most important ones when it comes to safety. If you need another day, another week to finish well, ask for it. Most of you are dealing with self-imposed deadlines anyway.

Trap #3          During the revisioning process, someone suggests that you are totally off track and calls for a re-start.  Everyone who writes a dissertation has a story. I had one professor on my committee who was known to leave doctoral students crashed and burning in his wake.  After spending two years researching and writing my dissertation and receiving the tentative approval of my advisor, we submitted it to the committee. It came back from them with high praise—except for The Wrecker, who thought the whole premise was unworthy.  Five days before my defense before the committee who would determine whether the dissertation passed or failed, my advisor suggested that I write one more chapter which he felt would give him enough leverage to withstand the assault of the Wrecker.  I wrote that chapter; we added it to the previous ones and submitted the final version of the dissertation to the committee.  At the defense, the Wrecker arrived 45 minutes late, then acted rudely indifferent to anything happening in the room. When it came his turn to comment, he simply said that he never had believed in the project and he thought it was a poor excuse for a dissertation.  He was the only dissenter when it came time to vote, so I passed.  Don’t let a minority naysayer throw you off course.  If you have gone through the process, sought good input and feedback along the way, and are confident that the plan is good, don’t let the almost inevitable critic derail you.  Finish anyway!

And here are a couple of tips you should follow to finish strong!

Tip #1       Pay attention to formatting and packaging your strategic plan well.  Now I’m really getting picky, but you must now think of the wrapping paper. Don’t stick your gift in a brown paper bag and just pitch it to the recipients.  Wrap it beautifully and appropriately and make the delivery something special.  Specifically, I’m suggesting that you look again carefully at the formatting on the page. Is it organized, divided and subdivided clearly?  Is the organization transparent?  Is the font readable while appropriate for the level of formality?  Do the pagination and page breaks contribute to the ease of reading? Would it be better received in a binder than put together with paper clips?

Tip #2       Deliver it. Believe in it! Nothing is perfect. As soon as you send it out, you are going to find a typo or a phrase that you wish you could rewrite. But as much as you wanted perfection, don’t let its imperfection devastate you or you won’t be able to make others believe in it.

I’ve got two more pieces in this series on strategic planning. Next we will look at getting final agreement for your board or overseers, and then we’ll talk about what to do when the whole process is finally finished.



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