One of the frequent criticisms of strategic plans is that a lot of work goes into developing them, only to sit on the shelf and collect dust. This never has to occur if it is recognized that the strategic plans are the outcome of an ongoing, dynamic planning process.
The dynamic planning process starts with people getting together and sharing insights. During these meetings, people make decisions based upon those insights. The key to effective planning involves converting those decisions to actions. And for the process to be most effective, the results of the actions are monitored and shared, thus continuing an unending process.
In our strategic planning process, we share insights during our annual planning sessions. Based upon a common understanding of the present state health of our association, we make decisions and establish goals for the future. These goals are converted in action through our annual Key Strategy setting, and resulting Implementation Plans (which were discussed last month).
We make certain our decisions get converted to action through our formal Review & Reload (R&R) process. An R&R session is scheduled for the end of each 90- (or 120)-day planning cycle. Prior to the R&R meeting, the owner of each Key Strategy color-codes each task within their plan of action.
Each task is colored white if it is completed, green if it is still in progress but on schedule, red if work hasn’t begun or the progress is well behind schedule, or yellow if work has started but has not progressed to the desired point.
During the R&R meeting, the owner of each Key Strategy will answer four after-action review (AAR) questions:
• What was supposed to happen?
• What actually happened?
• Why was there a difference?
• What can we learn from this?
After the discussion of the AAR questions with the entire group, the owner presents a new Implementation Plan for the next cycle. The R&R process keeps things moving forward and promotes accountability, but also allows for course corrections as circumstances change. This in turn ensures that strategic planning at NACE always remains a dynamic process.
It also helps ensure that our strategic plans will never sit on a shelf collecting dust!
Note: This article is maintained as part of an ongoing series on the NACE web site.