I HATE My Strategic Plan!

Have you ever said this? There are a lot of reasons to hate strategic plans. Today, I am writing about one of them — their COMPLEXITY.

If a PhD is required to comprehend your organization’s strategic plan, or if it takes more than a few minutes to read, you may have a plan that is dead in the water.

When I work with organizations on creating strategic plans, my focus is to help leaders clarify and simplify their strategy. What do I mean by that?

We’ve all seen the strategic plans that are written more like Harvard case studies, or worse yet, government code. Section A, Article 4, Line 6.z, etc.

You’ve lost me!

And if that is not enough, the plan is filled with such jargon and big words that people’s eyes just glaze over.

An effective and dynamic strategic plan has just a few basic elements (in addition to mission and vision):

  1. A clear big-picture overview (I call this the Direction). It should articulate, at the highest level, what 3-5 things a board has declared are the most important components to get right over the coming 3-5 years, if they intend for the organization to be thriving and competing in the future (yes, competing — more on that in another post). The strategic direction gives your board, staff, and other key partners the main talking points that create consistent messaging — the shared “point of view”. It also reinforces, along with the mission, the WHY of the work.
  2. A clear, simply-stated set of goals and objectives (the WHAT) that align with the above direction. Each of the 3-5 imperatives articulated in the direction-setting phase should have a set of a FEW relevant goals and objectives (not detailed tactics and action plans — that comes AFTER strategic planning).
  3. A clear set of 3-5 strategies (the HOW) that will lead to the achievement of the goals and objectives. Again, NOT tactics and action plans.

Too simple right? Amazingly, the simpler the product you want, the harder it is to craft! Boards want to get into the WEEDS!

Churchill, Lincoln, and others have been credited with claiming that if they were asked to give a 5-minute speech, they would need weeks to prepare; but if they were to give an hour-long speech, they could be ready at any time! This makes sense, because pairing down the essence of a message is an art — a powerful one! Many of our clients are most pleased with our ability to get their boards to articulate the ESSENCE.

Why no tactics and action plans? Because it is not intended to be a tactical or operational plan. It is a strategic plan. It should be written in such a way that the key stakeholders can quickly and easily understand it, articulate it, and get behind it.

Operational planning is necessary, but it comes AFTER the organization has defined its strategy for winning. It’s a different product!

Now for the prestige… Here’s what the magic sauce of a clear strategy does:

  • It creates momentum, excitement, and belief moving into the operation planning phase.
  • It empowers the execution phase. It gives permission to innovate and change structure as needed.
  • It creates transparency for the various stakeholders.
  • It assists with branding and messaging, because the organization is now crystal clear about what it’s core work is and will be.
  • It transcends board terms and helps the organization avoid the “It’s my year” syndrome, which forces organizations to start over each year.

This is the work of The Jinks Perspective. Our mission is to help social sector leaders and their teams achieve meaningful action by clarifying, simplifying, and aligning their work.

Is it time for your organization to get crystal clear about your strategy? Learn more about our work HERE.

Or, for an even deeper dive, contact us below!

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