As a new year begins to unfold, we often find ourselves reflecting on our commitments and setting new goals. That process of reflection can be as powerful for organizations as it can for individuals. Strategic planning for the years ahead can help us to focus on what matters, creating the energy to move closer to our mission.

At The Improve Group, we believe the strategic planning process is most effective when it engages all organizational stakeholders—from board members and staff, to clients and partners, to directors and volunteers. When everyone has a place at the table and a voice in the process, the resulting strategic plan communicates a more collective vision. Individuals at every level of the organization will feel a deeper, more personal commitment to turning the plan into everyday action. By channeling energy into achieving key strategic goals, a new plan can help organizations deepen their overall impact in the community. Indeed, effective strategic plans can help us turn our organization’s vision into a reality.

In the last year, The Improve Group team began providing a new Participatory Strategic Planning (PSP) process specifically designed to bring everyone to the table. This innovative, collaborative approach—called the Technology of Participation or ToP—recognizes and honors the contributions of all stakeholders, celebrating differences while also minimizing polarization and conflict. Using ToP methods, we have been able to help our clients manage significant organizational change, address barriers, and identify transformational opportunities.

Our facilitators trained in ToP methods guide teams in creating four core elements of a new strategic plan:

  • Practical Vision: We work with board members, staff, and other key stakeholders to brainstorm hopes and aspirations for what will be in place in three to five years as a result of the organization’s action.
  • Underlying Contradictions: Next, we focus on identifying underlying contradictions or road blocks to organizational success. Unlike straightforward problems that can be solved, contradictions often relate to patterns in organizational history, culture, or practice or to the environment or circumstances in which the organization works. We guide participants through the process of revealing any underlying contractions or challenges that could prevent the organization from realizing its vision.
  • Strategic Directions: Once we have outlined underlying challenges, we guide participants through the process of defining new strategic directions. We focus on identifying innovative, substantive actions that leverage existing strengths and opportunities to overcome organizational challenges and realize key goals. Through these conversations, we work to develop consensus around a broad set of proposals that will allow an organization to take measurable steps toward its long-term objectives.
  • Implementation Steps: Once strategic directions have been outlined, we work with staff and other stakeholders to develop focused implementation plans. We identify all the specific and achievable tasks needed to ensure success for each strategic direction. We help to outline specific, measurable objectives, as well as action plans with clear strategies, defined roles and responsibilities, and tools for evaluating progress.

Using these methods, we have been able to help organizational teams create comprehensive and “participant-owned” strategic plans that board members, staff, and stakeholders are committed to realizing. These plans communicate a strong, collective vision—as well as the practical action needed to achieve critical objectives. If this New Year has your organization reflecting on future plans, we encourage you to explore the benefits of this powerful, participatory process!

Learn more about our Strategic Planning services here!