Generalist Practice BP9:

Citing Bryson (Chapter 1), what is strategic planning, what does it measure, and why is it necessary? Literally how do we strategically plan?

The Bryson reading (pp. 7-8) defines strategic planning as a deliberative, disciplined approach to producing fundamental decisions and actions to shape and guide what an organization (or other entity) is, what it does, and why.

Strategic planning gathers data for analysis that helps identify flaws and areas of improvement in communities. It helps those involved formulate specific, measurable, and achievable goals and missions for their chosen task, intervention, business, organization, community, etc. It helps discover any and all weaknesses now and for the future. It enhances organizational learning, and it helps create value for the public.

Strategic planning is necessary because a person or organization fares best when all possibilities for success and failure have been explored and discussed. For instance, if a person wanted to start a community organization that offered free lunches and dinners for low-income community members (like a soup kitchen or Meals on Wheels), strategic planning would help to discover whether or not that kind of service was actually needed in a particular area. Strategic planning would help the organizers determine what the pitfalls might be in a particular community that would need to be addressed before moving forward (limited transportation access, food deserts, etc). It would help set up goals for the immediate future that could be built on (feeding 100 people the first week, feeding 500 in the coming weeks, with the number increasing based on need in the community, expanding to a larger facility, increasing the variety of foods available, community donors, etc).

Strategic planning is imperative when discovering and abiding by laws in the area. We don’t know what we don’t know, and bringing together like-minded individuals who understand the laws ensures that the organization is following those laws.

There are three basic principles of strategic planning that can be expanded upon in most situations (Bryson pp. 11):

  1. Where we are.
  2. Where we want to be.
  3. How to get there.

These statements are basic but, once fleshed out and expanded, lay the groundwork for success in any organization. These items can and should be revisited when an organization hits a snag and cannot seem to move forward. Going ‘back to the basics’ reminds everyone of the mission of the organization and, hopefully, gets everyone back on the same page of where we’re going.

Keeping these things in mind promotes strategic thinking, improve decision making, and enhances organizational responsiveness, effectiveness, and resilience (Bryson pp. 14-15).