Who Plans?

One of the most important questions to answer when embarking upon strategic planning is who will be included in the planning process itself. Making a mistake in how this question gets answered can have disastrous results.

Before the strategic planning process begins (in the “planning to plan” phase) ask the following question: Whose energy will we need in order to achieve the plan once it is written? This question may be answered by naming constituencies (e.g. alumni) or individuals (e.g. the chair of the development committee).

Everyone named should be part of the planning process. This doesn’t mean that everyone named should be on the strategic planning committee. Committees cease to be functional when they get too large. But it should be clear from the start how the planning process will include all of the people named. Surveys, interviews and commissioned or previously published studies can all be used to ensure that input is received from the right people.

Once a plan is in place to include the right people, make sure that the planning process includes regular communication with them. They should know how their input is going to be solicited, when their input is being considered and by whom, they should be notified regarding how the final plan reflects their hopes and aspirations, and they should know when progress is being made on achieving the plan’s goals. A good strategic planning process includes a related communications plan.

People who have been left out of the planning process, or perceive that they have been left out, are unlikely to participate wholeheartedly in achieving the plan’s goals.

In a strategic planning process, who plans can be as important as what is planned.

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