The importance of strategic planning in the Board’s role
The purpose of a strategic plan
What’s in a good strategic plan
The Board’s role in strategic planning
Learning from our clients on effective strategic planning
Why Boards Do Strategic Planning
Strategic planning is a basic responsibility of the Board. There are two reasons for preparing a strategic plan. The first is to mitigate risks to the organization. Identifying risk is also a critical Board role.
The second reason for preparing a strategic plan is to execute the organization’s mission better. The organization’s mission defines who the organization serves and how it serves them. Marketing, distribution, fund raising, education, government relations are all examples of strategies that organizations use to help them execute their mission better.
Role of the Board in Strategic Planning
The Board of Directors does not need to be the author of the strategic plan. In most cases the management team is much better suited to develop a strategic plan recommendation. From there, it is up to the Board to validate the plan recommendation (is it appropriate?) and then approve it. With the Board’s approval, it is up to the management team lead by the CEO to execute the strategic plan.
Ensuring the organization has the right CEO and measuring how well the CEO executes the strategic plan is the third and final role of the Board.
Learning from Clients on Strategic Planning
Some of our observations working with clients on strategic planning include:
Confusion between strategic planning and annual operating plans. Strategic priorities don’t change every year. But the work required to execute them does. Annual operating plans define the goals, budgets and work the organization will do on its strategic priorities.
Understanding mission is crucial. Even long-standing organizations can become confused over time about who the organization serves and how it serves them. That confusion makes strategy and accountability more difficult. We urge all of our clients to constantly review and remind themselves who their organization serves and how it serves them.
Vision statements can be helpful. There are both inspirational and aspirational. However, it is impossible and inappropriate to develop a vision statement without first understanding the mission (who we serve and how). Without the grounding provided by the mission, visions can be misleading. The typical result is that the vision has almost no chance of becoming real.
Role of the Board in Strategic Planning Summary
The Board play a critical role in strategic planning even if development of the plan recommendation falls to the management team. First and foremost the Board must ensure the plan is the best plan possible. In order to do this, some Boards bring in their own expert advisors to assist.
The other key role of the Board in strategic planning is holding the CEO accountable for execution. It is still quite common for organizations to prepare detailed strategic plans, then leave them sitting on the shelf. Measuring the CEO on strategic plan execution ensure this doesn’t happen.