There are a few fundamental elements of your strategic plan that must be crafted carefully and thoughtfully – with a sense of ownership, visionary thinking, and a relentless pursuit of your desired future. Your vision, mission, and values are the three most critical elements of your plan – so take the time to get these in place before moving to the next phase.
A common challenge – especially for volunteer organizations – is allocating sufficient time to author, review, and adopt a vision and mission. Traditionally, the vision and mission are crafted (or rewritten) at the beginning of a one-day or weekend strategic planning retreat. In my experience, those individuals who are less active at your planning event will often be more vocal, critical (in a constructive manner), and insightful in the days or weeks after the planning retreat. All too often, it is a small number of participants who offer most of the input during these retreats. It is just the nature of the setting, exacerbated by the varying personalities of the attendees. This is perfectly normal. There is nothing wrong with being more or less vocal – as long as everyone has an opportunity to contribute to the strategic planning process. Remember, the “planning process” is not defined by the weekend retreat. – your strategic plan development is a dynamic and ongoing process.
Time is on your side – use it to your advantage. If the fundamental elements of your plan are developed too rapidly (without sufficient input from all Board members, as well as members of your staff) you run the risk of minimizing the impact and integration of your vision and mission. Your vision and mission are the cornerstones of the foundation of your company’s purpose and being. Do not underestimate the importance of getting this part right.
Your vision is a clear, powerful, and significant message that identifies a desired future. It articulates where you are taking the organization. Without a clear vision of where you are headed, you run the risk of subsequently creating a mission statement that does nothing more than create short-term value. You mission statement clarifies what you do today in the delivery of your services and/or the creation of your products, in the pursuit of your vision. It should also describe how you deliver your services. Author a few variations of your vision and mission, distribute them to everyone, then wait a week or so to collect everyone’s feedback. Provide various channels for collecting feedback – electronic, one to one, and group settings to ensure everyone has an opportunity to be heard. This is crucial to future support and integration.
Properly crafted and vetted, your vision and mission statements should remain intact for many years. Your strategic goals and action plans may wax and wane, but your vision must remain clear and on target. Unless you experience a merger or your business model dramatically changes course, there are very few valid cases for making changes to your vision and mission.
This is a good time to touch on your company’s values, which require the same discipline as the vision and mission during their development. If there is any aspect of your strategic business plan that should almost never change – it is your values. If a company is changing their inventory of values during a strategic planning retreat – this may be a sign of trouble on the horizon. Either the values were not properly identified in the first place (less alarming – and easily remedied), or the company may be choosing to selectively add and delete values to allow for a short-term compromise. If someone, or some company, is in a position to compromise a value (i.e. honesty), for short-term gain it may be a business ethics issue ready to surface. Daily decisions (in the boardroom and front-lines) should all be done in the context of your company’s values. Planning, hiring, client service, or contract negotiations – nothing is exempt, no value is to be compromised.
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