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Strategic Planning

Group of people looking at papers scattered on conference room floor

I have been asked many times, why should our community develop a strategic plan? In many cases, communities are applying for grant dollars and as a requirement, they need to include a strategic plan. In many cases this is the impetus to develop or update a very old plan.  We have all heard the old adage,

“fail to plan, you plan to fail”. This applies to communities and businesses of all sizes.

Strategic planning brings a sense of focus to any organization.

Because a strategic plan establishes a direction for your business, community and organization to take, it will help it sharpen its focus in order to get there. Strategic planning can therefore help your organization develop the right goals and targets and help everyone focus their efforts into meeting them. Board members come to an organization with various goals or agendas in mind. Strategic planning is a tool to get everyone’s input and prioritize so everyone is on the same page and moving in the same direction. Ideally, everyone’s opinions were heard and robust discussion takes place and prioritizing ensues.

Often times organizations operate in reactive mode, fixing water lines when a leak occurs, scrambling to meet compliance issues after an audit, fielding numerous requests for funding from various groups etc. Recently, I was working with a park board to help them develop their strategic plan. During the “why do we need a strategic plan” discussion, a board member stated “ if we have priorities in place and  lets say the rugby club comes to us and wants us to  build a rugby field, and we didn’t budget for a rugby field and its not in our strategic plan, we can add it to future plans, but for  the next 12 months we have solid priorities we need to focus on”.  EXACTLY.  Not to say that other valid ideas won’t be brought forward, but if a group is only focusing on requests, that could get very messy.

Creating and following a strategic plan will place you and your organization in a proactive position. Thinking about the future instead of fixing issues from the past will help your community or organization thrive. Successful communities and organizations don’t just happen, those that are thriving have taken the time to plan for their future.

Strategic plans are not meant to sit on a shelf but be an active document that is referred to often. Sometimes a group will decide certain priorities are not relevant any longer. Also, don’t forget to celebrate the accomplishment of completing an item in a strategic plan, and communicate these wins with your constituents, community members or stakeholders. In my experience, if the public doesn’t know what you’re doing, they assume you aren’t doing anything. Share those successes utilizing many communication sources.

To learn more: Facilitating Strategic Planning in Groups Using an Asset-based Approach and Goal-Setting for Strategic Planning

NDSU Extension assists organizations by facilitating strategic planning processes, virtually or in person. We utilize many of the processes in this publication.

Contact your local NDSU Extension agent for more details.