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On more than one occasion, nonprofit leaders have asked me “when does it make sense to invest the time, energy, and other resources to create a strategic plan?” I can empathize — money is tight, time is stretched thin, and your days often end with pressing demands that carryover until tomorrow.
Evidence Soup: Working with quantitative people, evidence-based management, and NFL ref bias. Development that Works: How effective are land property rights interventions on improving investments and agricultural productivity? The Strategic Planning Template is designed to help clubs assess what areas of their club should become part of their overall strategic plan moving into the future. Perhaps your agency can be numbered among the many who have asked me, “how do I know when its time to plan?” The thoughtful consideration of these six questions is designed to help you move from the conceptual to the specific. The club must also decide on whether certain areas will become a longer term focus, or more of a strategic focus.
Sometimes a new answer to any of these questions can dramatically change the direction of your business and your life.
So it is a fair question: When should an agency consider developing a strategic plan?  In this post, I would like to offer six core strategic questions as a way to help your agency think about when to develop a strategic plan. The second question relates to the urgency and is often a different answer than the motivation driving a strategic planning process.
Yet in terms of the motivation and urgency, responding to a crisis is not the same as a strategic plan.
The third relevant planning question forces an organization of get specific and measurable.  What impact will you use to measure the strategic planning process?   Two typical outcomes for strategic planning include improve performance  (see here) or demonstrating more compelling program outcomes. There are literally dozens of books and manuals on nonprofit strategic planning that outline the elements of successful strategic planning. These questions can serve as the decision-making sequence for strategic planning.  Working though each can help you, your staff and board decide when the time is right to resource a strategic planning process. For most organizations, the truth about allocating resources for planning lies somewhere in between the two extremes — tho nearer to the bootstrap than six figures end of the spectrum (more here).
Here it is sufficient to say that before embarking on strategic planning your organization needs to think about a) the framework you will use, b) the guidance you will seek, c) the timeline you will adhere to, d) the decision making process and e) the progress markers that will serve as planning guideposts.  Planning to plan helps to ensure success. Are we creating the most compelling outcomes based on the limited resources we have at our disposal?  This impact question becomes the heart and soul of any strategic planning process.

Never be satisfied with the first answer.For example, railroads defined themselves as being in the business of moving people and freight by rail. By ignoring the other avenues of transportation that were developing, such as trucks, buses, ships, and airplanes, many railroads went out of business.Many Internet companies defined themselves as providers of free information geared toward attracting as many eyeballs as possible.
In reality, the Internet is a communication and distribution channel that must be focused on selling products or services and making a profit, like any other business. This failure to accurately define the business has led to the loss of many billions of investment dollars and market capitalization.Define your business in terms of the effect your products or services have on the life or work of other people or organizations. Is it an intelligent strategy to continue in your current line of business, or should you be looking at changing in some way?What business should you be in? Look at yourself, your talents, your abilities, your ambitions, your energies, and especially your heart’s desire to determine the business you should be in, the work you should be doing sometime in the future.What business could you be in?
If you were to dramatically change your level of knowledge or skills, your products or services, your industries or markets, what business could you be in if you really wanted to be?
Your primary job at work is to make sure that you are satisfying his or her essential needs. Do you know what they are?You can define a customer as anyone who depends on you for his or her success and anyone you depend on for your success. Everyone around you whom you help, or who helps you, is a customer in some way.Who is your external customer, the customer who uses what you produce? Your ability to accurately identify the external customer whose satisfaction determines your success in your career is critical to every element of strategic planning.What does your customer value?
How does your product change or improve his or her life and workThe twenty-first century has been called the Age of the Customer.
Your ability to identify and satisfy your key customers is a critical determinant of your success and your rewards in life.Who will your customer be in the future if current trends continue? How could you upgrade your knowledge and skills and your ability to satisfy that customer?Fire Your CustomersAre there any customers in your business, whom, knowing what you now know, you wouldn’t start working with again today?
Answering this question honestly is an essential part of liberating yourself and your company from some of the decisions of the past.Many companies today are analyzing and identifying the qualities and characteristics of their very best customers. By doing this, they can focus more of their time and attention on their highest-value customers and on acquiring more customers like them. He determined that 20 percent of his customers contributed 80 percent of his sales volume and 80 percent of his profits.

One by one, he handed them off to other companies in his industry whom he felt could serve them better.
What is your personal competitive advantage over the other people in your field?This is a vital question in personal strategic planning. You will be truly successful only to the degree that you become excellent at the most important part of your work.
One of your chief responsibilities in life is to select the area of excellence that can have the greatest positive impact on your career and your income, and then throw your whole heart into becoming very, very good in that one area.In Competing for the Future, Gary Hamel points out that the top companies are those that project forward five years and then identify the core competencies they will need at that time to dominate their industries.
They then implement a development plan to ensure that they have those core competencies in place when the future arrives.You should follow this strategy as well. What are the core competencies you will need to be in the top 10 percent of your field three to five years from now? Invariably, one of these steps is the constraint or chokepoint that determines the speed at which you complete the process and achieve your goalFor example, between your home and your office, there may be a stretch of road or freeway that sometimes is extremely crowded.
But if that stretch is jammed, this can be the major bottleneck that determines how fast you cover the entire distance.If your goal is to double your income, the first thing to do is identify the different steps you must take to get from the income you have today to the income you want.
If you want to spend more time with your family or friends, why aren’t you doing it already? Often, forcing yourself to develop the answers to these questions will enable you to see the critical constraint that is holding you back.Here is an important point. I would contend that fully 80 percent of all the constraints that are holding you back from achieving your most desired goals are inside you.
Fully 80 percent of the reasons that your company is not achieving its goals are inside the company, in some way. Fully 80 percent of the reasons that you are not making more money or increasing your free time are within yourself. Your major constraints usually lie within your own habits, beliefs, attitudes, opinions, skills, and abilities.When you want to accomplish great things, you always start with yourself and work out from there. Strategic PlanningIf you are intrigued by the potential of strategy innovation for your company, be aware that you will not get it from your current strategic planning process.

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