Is your organization ready for strategic planning?

Assess your organizational readiness with these 4 Critical Questions

Are you contemplating a strategic planning process for your organization? When you take the time to factor organizational readiness into your planning, you can build the right foundation for planning success. At a minimum, think carefully about the following questions.

Is there a compelling reason?

How and when you plan should be informed by your purpose for planning – the WHY behind it all. The more compelling the planning purpose, the more engaged your organization will be in the process, the plan it produces, and the work it inspires – bringing the plan to life. Notable changes in leadership or business structure, such as an acquisition or possible expansion, can be compelling reasons to plan, as can notable external factors such as pending regulatory changes.

When an organization finds itself launching into strategic planning just because five (or three) years is almost up, it can find itself planning for the sake of planning, rather than for a compelling business reason.

Ask yourself why you are planning before you proceed and be informed by what will truly compel your organization and its long-term growth and success.

Is the scope of your mandate clear?

Strategic plans are typically grounded and informed by the organization’s Mission, Vision and Values – those fundamentals that define an organization’s purpose, desired future state and the core beliefs on which it wants to operate. If there is a need or desire to revisit one or more of those ‘fundamentals’ this time around, it should be clearly defined in the planning mandate, and factored into the planning process you choose.

This is also the time to clarify any other relevant aspects of the desired scope of planning, such as the extent of internal and external engagement, as well as the overall planning period to be considered. By ensuring you have a clear mandate up front about what is or is not in scope, you can choose the most appropriate process and build a timeline needed to do it well. You will also minimize frustration and divisiveness as you work to build a shared foundation for planning success.

Do you have the resources to plan well?

Give some thought to all the resources you will need for good planning, given the size and scope of your organization and the extent of the planning mandate. Consider key personnel to serve on and/or contribute to the planning team, or provide relevant input, expertise and feedback. Knowing that people support what they help to build, you will benefit from involving those who will be directly affected by your planning, as well as those who will be key to successful implementation.

You will also need access to relevant organizational and environmental data (which may include undertaking some form of research, whether primary or secondary), planning and analytical supports and the ability to readily engage with key stakeholders. Each of those inputs represents time and budget to be factored into your resource assessment.

Do you have the organizational ‘capacity’?

In addition to assessing the time and resources needed to plan, take care to consider what else is happening inside and outside the organization right now. Is there sufficient ‘breathing room’ in the calendar of priorities to allow planning to occur?

Though you may feel constrained to meet a specific deadline, a significant planning initiative that must compete with other major organizational agendas will inevitably frustrate everyone and may well compromise your ability to plan, do it well and follow through to implementation.

Be prepared to consider: is there a better time in the year for the organization to be undertaking this planning? Or is there a way to create organizational space and time for planning now?

When you make it a priority to assess your organization’s state of readiness before you begin, you can plan accordingly. The time you take for this work at the front-end of planning will serve you well from beginning to end, helping to avoid any number of roadblocks along the way. Your process will shine as will the plan you build. Even more importantly, you will have a much higher degree of success in the area that really matters: engaging everyone in bringing the plan to life.

Michelle Lane

Michelle Lane is a leadership development coach, consultant, and facilitator with 40 years of diverse leadership experience in the public, private and non-profit sectors. Michelle can be reached at

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