Why Strategic Planning Goes Wrong

reprinted by request

As a consultant, executive staff member, board director, and teacher, I have had the opportunity to engage in a lot of strategic planning. I think about it, research it, and look for ideas to make it work better than how it tends to work.

It has always bothered me to know that more often than not strategic planning efforts go awry. In another article I wrote on this topic, I stated the biggest reason why strategic plans fail is that people don’t do them. While there is truth in that, the story doesn’t end there of course. It’s why people and organizations fail to do successful strategic planning that deserves some attention.

The difference between Strategy and Plan
Let’s start with what I suggest are some fundamental misconceptions about strategic planning. The biggest misconception is that strategy and planning are one in the same. How often, for example, do you hear people equate strategic planning with a “blueprint” or a “roadmap?” While those words are good metaphors for the word, “plan,” they fail substantially in capturing the meaning of “strategic” or “strategy.” Continue reading

Let’s Take a Break from Doing Good

Let’s forget our worries and our doubts and walk together unencumbered by the need for a destination. Let’s close the big books of plans and studies and turn down the volume of all that best practice noise. Let’s prefer to have faith in something less predictable and confining. Let’s agree to never again meet in board rooms, or scrawl our logic models on white boards, or wax eloquent about the innovator’s dilemma. Let’s run outside into the blue and green grinning wildly. Let’s throw away our shoes and dig our toes into the dirt and feel what it is truly like to be grounded in Mother Earth.

Let’s walk along the water’s edge and enjoy the rush of the river. Watch the way water prevails no matter what sits in its path. And when we reach a clearing, let’s rest and listen to the murmur of the forest and wonder about the creatures there. Let’s sit in sunbeams on cool stones. Let’s think like wild flowers. Let’s feel life like insects do. Let’s shut our mouths and let quiet matter.

Then let’s walk side by side and climb the hill to discover whatever is there for us. Let’s watch the lights of city streets and how the starlight sparks against the glass of skyscrapers. Let’s emerge from a dirt path to a sidewalk with weeds sprouting from its cracks and just keep on walking. Walking until being alone gives away to manoeuvering through the crowds of shoppers, strollers, and pet owners. Let’s be happy when a dog wraps his leash around our leg and looks up at us with his dark eyes. Let’s watch men with jackhammers and smile at the music they make. Let’s buy roses and hand them out to strangers and wish them a happy day.

Let’s stop and drink Fat Bastard at the Thin Lady Café. Let’s tell jokes to strangers and laugh from our bellies. Let’s spill on ourselves the excess of our happiness and not even think for a moment of erasing the stain with a Tide pen. Let’s talk about gardens and camping. Let’s read each other stories from the newspaper that the other would not choose to read. Let’s write down our peculiarities on napkins and then leave them for others to read after we leave.

Let’s stand in picture windows and make funny faces at the shoppers inside. Let’s gawk like children at everything we do not understand. Let’s walk down alley ways and enjoy the gardens of strangers and let the colours and aromas kiss our skin. Let’s sit on the concrete bus bench and refuse to look tired and resigned to the long wait to come.

Then, let’s find the busiest of plazas, and in the middle of the chaos of people and neon and honking horns, let’s dance. Let’s dance like tiny dogs do. Let’s inhale everything that is good and uplifting and exhale all of our broken pieces and watch them float away toward the moon. Let’s forget that we want to save the world. Let’s forget for a short time all that we have to do. Let’s forget how afraid we are and defy our tendency to think professionalism trumps personal connection.

Let’s embrace on the sidewalk for all to see. Let’s communicate like dolphins and hold on to one another. Let’s hold onto one another like grandmothers do when their grandchildren run to them for love or because they are frightened or for any other reason at all.

And then, let’s get back to work. There is suffering everywhere and while we may not ever end it, God help us if we ever get to the point where we just give up and accept that suffering is acceptable and something we just have to learn to live with. Let’s never do that.

Let’s never do that.

Imagine Canada Update: A Framework for Action

Earlier this year I attended a dialogue session facilitated by Imagine Canada here in Edmonton. It was the first stop on a pan-Canadian effort by Imagine Canada to have dialogue about drivers of change in the nonprofit sector with an eye on identifying proposed actions to ensure Canada has a strong, vibrant non profit sector delivering maximum results and benefits across our great country. I wrote about my impression of the Edmonton Session in a posting on this blog HERE

The initial round of dialogue sessions has been done and resulted in the publishing of A Framework for Action for the Nonprofit Sector.

As stated in the report, “This document is to be used to facilitate a pan-Canadian dialogue convened by Imagine Canada focusing on drivers of change in the charitable and nonprofit sector and proposed actions to maximize the sector’s contributions to Canada and the world over the next decade.While this draft reflects what Imagine Canada has heard from various stakeholder groups – both formal and informal and from across the country – it is a working paper, not a finished product. The list of priorities for action contained herein is neither exhaustive, nor generally agreed upon by sector stakeholders. Instead, this document is intended to be augmented, refined and validated collaboratively, as part of the consultation process to occur between May and December 2010.

“Our engagement strategy is informed by A Framework for Action, a working document outlining drivers of change that we believe will have an impact on the sector in the coming years. Imagine Canada is using this draft framework to facilitate a nation-wide conversation about what actions must be taken to maximize the contributions of the sector to Canada and the world over the next decade. In our role as a convener of this national dialogue, Imagine Canada is co-hosting Provincial Forums and extended community conversations with local partners.”

The following links are hosted by Imagine Canada. By following them you will have access to all of the information available about the dialogue sessions.

Download the Framework for Action document
Download the Framwork for Action Summary
Browse the Drivers of Change
View the Actions to Consider

RCVO Connections

The RCVO’s spring issue is out, which features an article I wrote on why strategic planning goes wrong. Also a good piece about mergers, some learning opportunities to look at, a few web picks. You can read my article here on my blog or download the newsletter (below)

Click HERE for the PDF of the newsletter.

Looking into the future

No one has a crystal ball that can predict definitively what the future will look like but there is a fair amount of forecasting that can be done that is based on demography. We know that the birthrate can help planners understand what the demand for schools and teachers will be in the future. It’s really a matter of math plus factoring in aging infrastructure that can help determine just how many schools will need to be built or phased out in the future.

Demographic projections are fairly reliable, especially with respect to population growth and make up. For example, we know that birth rate factored with death rate tells us a lot abot natural growth of an existing population. Factor in immigration policy and historic patterns of in- or out-migration with respect to a community and you can do a pretty good job of seeing the future, at least within the context of scenarios.

The data is there. One has to wonder if anyone is actually looking at it and casting out long term for the implications with respect to the economy, services to people, and how things will shift as the population grows and changes in terms of characteristics.

Stats Can has done some projections to 2031 and they are rather telling in terms of what the make up of Canada will be 20 years out. We know that is the year when the last wave of returing boomers will take effect. Given that Generation Y is a smaller population and the birth rate will be quite low for years to come, the workforce will be shrinking. We also know that our population growth will behighly dependent on international immigration.Unless policy changes dramatically we will see between 200,000 and 275,000 international immigrants coming to Canada each year for the next 20 years.

This will increase the multicultural flavor of our society, impact demands for services, and influence the nature of civic involvement, given the differences among cultures and how they see the expression of citizenship. Based on Stats Can info, I estimate between 350,000 and 400,000 new immigrants will make their home in Alberta in the next 20 years – most of these in our two major cities. Continue reading