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  • Rose Challies

Strategic plans that scare, excite... and give hope


Change is scary. It means letting go of the past and embracing new ways of doing things. It often means challenging current behaviour and venturing into the unknown. A strategic plan is the blueprint for how this can be achieved. When an organisation aiming to bring about social change creates a strategic plan, it can reinstate hope and bring to life possibility, real possibility of meaningful change. So what does it take?

Well for one it takes a genuine commitment to revisiting what the organisation is all about. Too many organisations create a strategy to refresh and end up just remarketing the existing practise. An organisation has to be prepared to answer the big questions - what is the goal, is it the same as it was before? Is the organisation needed... really? Is it actually making progress? What can be achieved with the resources it has? Is it possible to get more resources? Are there activities not contributing to the core aims? Will the organisation be able to change the way things are?

It takes a humble and genuinely committed Board and senior management team to be able to answer these questions truthfully. It takes a special kind of organisation. I have watched Boards and Senior Managers dance around the issues and for me its a sad state of affairs. If people are ultimately protecting their job, their salary, their status or other commitments, truthful answers will not come. It has to be about the need. At the beginning of establishing a strategic plan there must be a question constantly asked... will [this] address the need effectively? If people are genuinely there to address the need they will answer truthfully, if they are not the whole plan will wilt.

Lets say the tough questions are answered, what next? A strategic plan must be smart, it must take into consideration the context in which work is carried out and the likely context for the future. You could say some 'back to the future' work must be done. Different scenarios need to be considered and weighed up in terms of their impact on the organisation. Otherwise the scary part of the plan will simply stay scary. This includes assessing risks and opportunities, and identifying likely trends in terms of need, society, politics, or relevant world changes. Find people who can help do this - who can forecast well. It is a skill set that is not common, so find a person who can see the big picture and is used to this type of analysis.

How to excite people with your strategic plan? Well for a start they will feel the energy of the plan so writing a truthful plan is a good start. Be realistic, people are skeptical if they sense cover ups and marketing. Be completely honest and you'll see the effect it has on people - they genuinely appreciate it. Describe the possibility in detail - don't hold back. Explain the realities and how this plan faces them and also how it goes beyond. Show how it will influence and change things for the better. Build on your worth, speak from your values, and the strength of your conviction and planned action will move people.

And hope? Well hope is when a strategic plan not only outlines possibilities, it provides a definite plan with practical and meaningful targets that people can identify with. Hope comes when people can see 'we can do this'. However, it needs to be simple. Be super clear what the need is, how your strategic plan addresses this (the action) and what the intended impact is. No overclaims, no complicated intellectual nonsense, just plain and simple... this is the need and this is how we're going to address it for real change.

Be brave, embrace the strategic planning process smartly and with heart and honesty. You will see results. Reinvigorate your organisation and most importantly, put yourselves in the most likely position to achieve change. Everyone will thank you for it!

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