Think you’re ready for strategic planning? Start with this exercise.

For most organizations, strategic planning is a major undertaking requiring a significant investment of time and resources. Before you make that investment, take time to explore what board, staff, and other key stakeholders want from your planning process. Don’t assume that everyone has the same expectations for the planning process and the final product. Failing to listen upfront to what people want from a planning process can make for a bumpy process and end with a plan that may leave some key stakeholders less than satisfied.

When we start a new planning project we ask our clients, “What will success look like at the end of this planning effort?” Their answers help to guide how we shape the process and what issues or strategic questions we will need to explore along the way. Shouldn’t you do the same?

To help clarify what your desired outcomes are for the planning process, consider engaging in the following exercise with your strategic planning committee or with your board and staff leadership team:

Desired Outcomes Exercise

Ask each person to write down and then share their answers to the following questions:

  • From your perspective, what should a successful planning process achieve? What will we need to have, or have achieved, for you to say that this was a success?
  • What kinds of guidance do you hope will emerge from this process?
  • What issues or questions do you want to make sure we address along the way?
  • Are there any issues you hope we’ll resolve as a result of our work?
  • Who do you want to make sure has been engaged in this process?

Be sure to record all the responses on flip-chart paper and encourage people to elaborate as needed. If the list of items is lengthy, take time to work with the group to prioritize their responses.

Keep in mind that the point of this exercise is to identify a list of desired outcomes for the planning process—a list that will be invaluable to those charged with designing your planning process and shepherding it along. If you work with a strategic planning consultant, this list will also help him or her more easily tailor the planning process to achieve the outcomes you’ve identified.

Strategic planning is just one of the topics we cover in the blog section of our website: We hope you’ll take time to explore the advice offered on our site, learn more about Starboard Leadership Consulting and our consultants, or get in touch now using the contact form