Doing Strategic Planning #1: Vision & Mission Statements
One of the services that I provide is to help small organizations and groups do strategic planning. My approach is to shepherd the group through the process and get them thinking about how the different elements of a strategic plan actually work together to drive decision-making policy. I don’t like to get caught up in mechanistic template driven planning, but really try to understand (with ethnographic insight) the soul of the organization and let the strategy emerge through a process of self-identification. If you know anything about my research or my art, narrative is a key element in my beliefs about identity. I like to bring that into the planning process.
All that to say, this morning I was helping a committee define a 5 year strategic plan that will account for a variety of goals and investments. After I walked away from the first meeting I thought that this might be an appropriate thing to blog about since I feel that it relates to just about any organization whether it is individual as enterprise, research programs, community development organizations, et cetera. In fact, it possibly even relates to the ways in which we manage ad hoc committees.
Back to today’s meeting:
This was the first of several meetings and I wanted to nail down the vision and mission statements before even considering developing strategic goals, tactics, expected outcomes, operational plans, policy, or niche statements. The vision and mission statement should embody the broader goals for the organization without including all of the specific plans and details.
One of my mentors once encouraged me to think about the vision statement as what the organization wants to be known for. For instance: “3-5 years from now, ORGANIZATION will be known for X in FIELD.” [substitute your details]
I took this idea into my meeting today and tried to orient the conversation around that statement. I also took real corporate mission statements as samples and asked the people to do a simple exercise that involved substituting noun-phrases in the sample statements to adapt the samples to meet the organizational needs of the group I was helping. Each person got a pad of Post-It notes and had to write out their substitutions, phrase by phrase. When everyone had finished, we went around the table and read our revised sample mission statement. During this process all of the participants heard what everyone else was thinking and they were able to compare and contrast the substitutions. After everyone had read their substitutions the group as a whole worked to pick and choose the Post-It notes that had the material they felt embodied the collective sense of mission. At the end of the session I collected the Post-It notes and promised to email them a few drafts of a prospective vision and mission statement for them to think about before the next meeting.
The entire meeting was experiential, engaging, and worth the time spent coming to a morning meeting. That follows from my personal policy: “Don’t call a meeting unless it is both necessary and valuable to everyone involved.”
I am looking forward to the next meeting where we figure out how the vision and mission statement couple with their baseline report to produce natural strategic goals. Stay tuned for updates this spring.