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Making Strategic Planning Fun

Strategic planning tends to get a bad rap among association professionals. Because it’s a required activity, many participants see it as something done under duress – obviously not a good start. Even worse, strategic planning requires time and resources – two things in short supply in most associations – so many participants begrudgingly accept it as just one more burden on their already hefty to do list. These are difficult perceptions to overcome, but managing them is a priority if you want to avoid participants becoming disillusioned. So how do you up the fun factor and keep everyone excited long enough to actually create a plan?

1. Involve as many stakeholders as possible from the start, and encourage all stakeholders to be active contributors to the process.

2. Don’t overwhelm participants with an overblown process. Reduce it to five basic phases.

3. Ditch the jargon – keep things simple so all participants understand everything.

4. Stay focused in all phases of the process. Don’t waste participants’ time.

5. Appoint a lead or go-to person to keep the process on track.

6. Don’t add new meetings for the process; replace other meetings.

7. Take the blinders off. See your organization for what is actually is and where it actually is.

8. Don’t ignore hard questions. Instead provide a deliberate, structured way to address them.

9. Don’t have unrealistic expectations of the final plan. Associations with budgets in the tens of millions of dollars swear by plans as brief as two pages.

10. Celebrate completion of each phase, especially the last one.

Too often, the process of strategic planning alienates the very people it needs to move forward – board members, staff members, association members, and other stakeholders. Next time you’re involved in the process, try using the ten techniques above to make participants feel useful and engaged instead of tired and disappointed.

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