5 Big Questions to Create a Strategic Plan That Is Really Strategic

So, you’re gearing up for another strategic planning process (because when are you not?), and this time you’re committed to creating a plan that your organization will be proud to call its own.

You want a plan that’s truly strategic – not just an organized list of operational to-dos.

Hey, I love a pretty operational plan as much as the next girl, but it’d be wrong to call it strategic.

The greatest gift of the strategic planning process is that it allows everyone on your team to simultaneously think strategically about the future of your organization.  Those complex and ambiguous organizational challenges that tend to overwhelm the mind of any one person, can be tackled by a collection of wise minds offering different knowledge, expertise, and perspectives.

In order to fully reap this benefit, you need to make sure your strategic planning process provides the space and structure to generate lots of strategic thinking.  It sound obvious, and yet many groups are so eager to jump into the planning portion of the process, that they skip over the juicy discussion that needs to happen to create organizational strategy.

One of the best ways to evoke strategic thinking is to ask and discuss strategic questions.

Find a way to weave these big questions into your strategic planning process – either at a strategic planning retreat or in smaller organizational sub-groups – and you will be well on your way to creating a strategic plan that your organization will be proud to call its own.

So here they are – my top 5 strategic questions to create a strategic plan that is really strategic:

1. What are the key internal strengths that have contributed to your organization’s success to date?

Keep the list short (no more than 4), be specific (“good programs” won’t cut it), and don’t sugarcoat (if “committed board members” is on the list, show me some of the most committed board members around).

2. What is the one strength that really sets you apart from the competition?

Do your research, know your market, and find that one thing that you do better or differently than anyone else.  And then build your strategy on that competitive advantage.

3. What are the big questions your organization must answer in order to be successful over the next several years?

What are those big, unanswered questions that are facing your organization?  Maybe you know that your current business model is unsustainable … or a big leadership transition is heading your way … and you’re still figuring out the best solutions to these challenges.  Identify your big questions and use the strategic planning process to gather information, insight, and perspectives to begin to form your answers.

4. What do you hope will be most noticeably different about your organization in several years?

When you vision your organization thriving in the future – how does it look different from your organization right now?  Is it larger, smaller, more efficient, more diverse?  What are the most striking differences?

5. What, programmatically or administratively, do you have to redesign or release in order to be successful?

Imagine you were starting from scratch – how would you design your organization and your programs to be the most effective and efficient?  What no longer makes sense or is no longer supporting you to be the most successful organization you can be?

Now, I’d love to hear from you!  

What are your favorite strategic questions for strategic planning?  Let me know in the comments section below.

Thanks, as always, for reading and contributing!