Strategic planning: Are you for or against?
The editors of Associations Now want to get our readers thinking--but every now and then an article gets an even stronger reaction than we had expected. In August, that article was "The Perils of Strategic Planning" by James Hollan. Here's how the story begins:
"Most strategic plans don't work. They involve too much paper, too much time, too many nodding heads, and far too many poorly informed so-called experts. I know that many association CEOs believe the same, but we exist in an environment where it is anathema to even question the validity of the strategic planning process. You might just as well stand up at the next board meeting and suggest everyone strip down to his or her underwear as question the usefulness of the strategic plan you have in place.
"It's all right to discuss ways to improve the plan or actualize the plan or even modify the plan. You can certainly pay consultants or facilitators to help set up a strategic plan or improve the one you already have in place, but the nonprofit sector currently has little room for questioning the usefulness of the strategic planning process itself. It's time to challenge that reality."
Since the August issue came out, we've heard some vehement (but thoughtful) reactions from strategic planning supporters. (One factor that probably increased interest was the fact than article on strategic planning also appeared in the latest issue of the Journal of Association Leadership, which also came out in August: "The Development of Consensus Guidelines for Strategic Planning in Associations," by Michael Gallery and Susan Waters).
From what I've heard, it seems that there are two main camps responding to James Hollan's article:
1. Those who think strategic planning is a powerful and important tool; sometimes it is used poorly or improperly, but the fact that some groups use the tool incorrectly doesn't mean that it should be tossed out.
2. Those who think strategic planning is so misguided that using it at all is a mistake.
I'd be very interested in hearing from both camps here. Feel free to lay out your strongest arguments for or against strategic planning. Should strategic planning be part of our organizational toolboxes--or should we find a new tool to work with?