To plan or not to plan ... that is the question

Strategic planning and turning to consultants are not not always advisable solutions.

In many organizations, there is a belief that each year warrants a full strategic planning exercise with a facilitator, brainstorming and breakout sessions, flow charts and flip charts, and the development of a SWOT analysis, which, identifies Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats and is a tool often used in the strategic planning process. Consultants make a lot of money facilitating these exercises and interpreting them into a grand plan that often gets shelved and reviewed only prior to the next year’s exercise.

Sound familiar?

Strategic Planning is a beneficial process when properly employed. Also, each organization should evaluate what it is they are looking for prior to taking part in the process. Planning is a necessary practice to employ and should not be overlooked. Often, in a small business or sole proprietorship setting, the planning process ends by establishing a budget.

Often, organizations have leadership from within capable of goal setting or short-term planning with no need for outside assistance. To be successful the organization must be motivated toward similar outcomes and that the norms of the organization must allow and encourage open and honest debate and discussion. When a group cannot constructively debate and discuss the goals of the organization then an outside facilitator should be considered. For groups interested in seeking assistance with professional facilitation, Michigan State University Extension has resources and trained professionals who can assist with this process.

While organizations should handle things internally when they have the capability, there are many benefits when utilizing outside experts. They hold no biases. They can keep the group moving toward completion of the process. They can take the information and interpret it into a useful report. They can also, when needed, provide recommendations on how to be a more productive organization overall.

So, in essence, it is crucial to determine if you are truly seeking a facilitated strategic plan or simply evaluating prior performance and establishing some short-term goals and directions. Once it is determined what outcome your organization desires the proper process can be undertaken, and it will most likely prove to be more productive than simply taking on a process for its own sake.

For assistance and facilitation opportunities, contact your local MSU Extension office or seek out help with Extension’s Find an Expert tool.

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