Sunday, August 21, 2005

A Temporary Detour

I’m in the habit of saying that strategic planning is not a conflict resolution process and that if there are internal conflicts in an organization, depending on the nature of the conflict, it may not be the right time to launch a strategic planning process. An example: if the Board of Directors is so weak and dysfunctional that it would be impossible for the board to engage in strategic planning in meaningful ways, first you need to put effort into board development.

But sometimes, the internal issues come to the surface after the strategic planning process has begun. In fact, given the comprehensive nature of strategic planning, a good process is going to surface some of those issues during the early information gathering and analysis phase. Some of these issues will eventually lead to goals, strategies and action plans.

But sometimes, there are issues that arise that simply can’t wait for implementation of the strategic plan at some future point. Some issues have to be addressed now – not later. In situations where an internal issue will make it difficult if not impossible to finish the planning process, it may be necessary to stop, deal with the issue at hand, and then resume the planning process. Recently, in one strategic planning project, it became very clear that tensions between the executive director and board leadership were getting in the way. After discussion with the executive director and board leaders, we agreed to hold a special working session to tackle a number of board/staff role questions and related communication problems. The session provided the needed opportunity to deal with the issues at hand and the planning process has resumed. As a result the executive director and the board leaders are even more enthusiastic about the future of the organization.