Part One: What is it?

paper stickers I’m excited to report that we are well on our way to having our first-ever strategic plan to guide the growth of Denver Shared Spaces over the next 3 years.  Our friends at The Cultivation Center are leading us through this process.  According to them, “a strategic plan is the road map that an organization can use to guide its growth over the long-term.”  Prior to this process, my image of “strategic planning” always included board members, post it notes, and a long day of process-heavy wordsmithing mission and vision.  While The Cultivation Center’s approach does include post-it notes and a retreat, the facilitation is much more action-oriented, the post-its GIANT, and the bulk of the actual work happened well-before the retreat.

Prior to our full-day retreating at Gensler’s inspiring new offices, Amy and her team completed a comprehensive discovery process that included surveys, interviews, and in-depth analysis of pretty much every aspect of our operations and programs.  They talked to our volunteers, staff, and funders.  They surveyed people who liked us, and . . . people who didn’t.  And spent a lot of time analyzing the data they gathered.  The resulting situational analysis provided a wealth of insight into what we are doing well, what strengths we have to build on, and where we need to focus on improving.

Situational analyses provide critical information about an organization’s current status and future opportunities.  While not always an explicit part of strategic planning, it has been a vital tool for us.  Our Steering Committee used the findings to guide decisions about what we need to focus on and where we need to grow.

The result – 3 critical tools for moving this organization forward.

  • The Strategic Plan – This will be a final report that outlines our priorities, goals, and action steps for the next 3 years.
  • The Dashboard – This might be the piece I’m most excited about, given that I on point for managing our progress toward stated goals. The dashboard is a monitoring tool that we will use to monitor the small steps it takes to get to the large goals we set out for DSS.  A solid dashboard takes the guesswork out of measuring progress, and helps set benchmarks for staff and volunteers.
  • The Work Plan – This final piece relates to me, DSS’s staff person. The workplan will flow from and relate back to the other two pieces of the pie.  The plan gets into the nitty gritty of what is on my plate for moving the big picture strategy forward.

Part Two: Why bother?

The reality is that a professionally-facilitated strategic planning process doesn’t come cheap and is a ton of work.  So why are we bothering with it in the first place?  Knowing the kind of financial and time investment the process would require, the Steering Committee did not enter into this process lightly.  Leaning on expertise from the field, we identified 4 reasons to engage in this process:

  • Support proactive (instead of reactive) thought and action
  • Provide clear structure and process for quality decision-making
  • Improves staff and volunteer performance
  • Provide a framework to evaluate and celebrate success

Speaking of celebrating successes, we put together a pretty impressive summary of 2015 on our site.  It’s worth checking out!  Has your organization or shared space recently undergone strategic planning?  What motivated you to take the plunge?  How has it impacted your work?