Category Archives: Strategic Planning

How to Reach Consensus on Your Strategic Plan

We are continuing our blog series on strategic planning by focusing on Step 3 of our 4 Step Strategic Planning Process: Facilitate Consensus. Read more about our previous strategic planning blogs in this series here, here, and here.  The main purpose of this third step is for the strategic planning team to start to reach agreement about the future direction.  

Organizations will often form strategic planning committees or task leadership teams to complete their strategic plan. This means that different types of people with various perspectives and insights will have to learn to work together on a common goal. We actually encourage collaboration and engagement in the strategic planning process and discuss it more Step 1 in this blog.

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After you have formed your planning team and gathered some critical information about the organization, your targeted clients and community you are now ready to come together to reach consensus about the future. The following five recommendations will help your team reach consensus:

  1. Issue Homework – Prepare a packet of information that summarizes all of the data and information that has been collected. Most likely there will be some important information that would be helpful for the group to read in advance of coming together. We like to package that information into a “pre-read” report or slide deck presentation (see more here).
  2.  Host Planning Sessions – Set aside time for the planning team to come back together once all of the information has been gathered. Depending on your planning team’s availability, this may need to be broken out into a couple of sessions.
  3.  Facilitate Group Discussion – If your budget allows, it is very helpful to have a consultant (ahem, TCG!) facilitate your planning discussions. This way all members of your team will be able to engage in the discussion. They are also equipped with adult learning strategies and can design a highly engaging and interactive process for your team.

wabash strategic plan4.  Focus on the “What” First – We often see many planning team members who want to jump into the strategies and problem-solve the needs/ gaps identified. The first step in consensus building is to reach agreement on the “What” you want to accomplish. We call this setting your big goals and top areas of focus. We also try to limit our clients to 3-5 big goals/ focus areas. Once you have this set, then you can get into the “How” you will accomplish your goals through strategies.

5. Take the Temperature – As you are moving through this process, it is important to check in with your planning team at these meetings and maybe even afterwards. You want your planning team to be confident in the agreements that have been made and to not have any ill feelings of team members. While not everyone may get what they think is important, everyone should be in collective agreement about the plan. During these planning sessions, your consultant or team lead should check the non-verbal and verbal cues of team members throughout the process and respond as needed.

By the end of step 3, facilitating consensus, your team should feel excitement and enthusiasm about the possibilities for the future and the plan! If not, that might be indicator that the consensus is not there with the whole group. In that case, you may need to come back together and have an honest discussion.

A strategic plan is not something to take lightly or go through the motions. It can set the path for the future of an organization and help bring about transformational change. When you take the time and effort to follow these five recommendations, your organization will be on its way.

If you are ready to start your strategic plan, contact us. We would love to support organization’s strategic planning needs.

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Assessing the Stress Levels of Staff

It is argued that the United States is the most overworked country in the world. Some individuals may be fine with putting in extra hours, but for many it’s about finding a balance between work, family, and other personal activities. The unbalance can often lead to stress, in turn affecting each area of a person’s life. Regardless of your job title, it can be beneficial to be aware of employee stress levels to result in effective program outcomes.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published 40% of workers reported their job was very or extremely stressful, and 25% viewed their job as the number one stressor in their lives (Stress…At Work, 4-5). Stress on employees can lead to burnout, a lack of productivity and increased risk of health problems.

At TCG, we serve government, non-profits, education, and communities. When working with clients, we often find that the pressure to meet program outcomes and the passion for clients and the cause can increase stress beyond those of other businesses. We suggest that if you truly want to equip your employees to accelerate your impact, then assessing the stress and well-being of staff is a good place to start.

We recently worked with a local school who was seeking grant funding to improve the health and well-being of their students from the Lilly Endowment. In the process of assessing the needs of the students, we also wanted to assess the health and well-being of the teachers. The staff have a direct impact on students and the school culture/ climate.

When is the right time to assess staff stress in the workplace?

Assessing staff stress should be an ongoing practice at organizations. Make it an annual occurrence or incorporate staff check-ins regularly. You can also reevaluate staff workloads and overall health during your strategic planning process or when there is a serious event.

During our work with the local school to apply for a comprehensive counseling grant, we realized that before we could meet the goals we set for the students (emotional health, academic success, etc.), we had to ensure that the teachers had the capability to support the program. This is an example of why it is important to bring staff in during the strategic planning process.

If a need is recognized, such as annual tracking or a serious event, management can be intentional about assessing the stress levels of staff. Have you heard  the line, “It’s not you, it’s me”? Sometimes the organization may not be at fault for staff stress, but this is not always the case. Personal factors, like finances, family, social, or other reasons, in life can cause employee stress. These can be distracting during work or cause work absences. Assessing staff and finding the root cause for distractions will help employers better understand how to work with and provide support to employees.

How should staff stress be assessed?

Stress, like pain, is relative to every individual and can be difficult to measure. We recommend using evidence-based questions and assessment tools to develop a survey. Craft general questions related to workplace stress or more personal questions to help get a better understanding of employees’ personal experiences.

Within your organization’s respective industry there is more than likely some standard questionnaires to assess your workforce. For example, when we were working with the schools, we found several assessments geared to questions for teachers.

We created an electronic survey to assess the workplace stress of teachers and support staff. We included general questions about workplace stress, along with the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) survey (which we spotlighted in this blog). The results gave us a comprehensive look at how stressful staff felt in the workplace and revealed any adverse childhood experiences that affected their overall health and ability to work.

What should you do with the results of staff stress feedback?

Like any data collection process, it should serve a purpose. If stress seems to be a workplace issue, try to determine what situations are flexible to ease the stress of staff within the limits of the organization and mission. Here are some suggestions to consider:

  • Adjust management style
  • Alter staff responsibilities
  • Hire extra staff
  • Offer pay increases, bonus incentives, or extra time-off
  • Change program models
  • Include staff on program model decisions (like choosing a curriculum or other materials)
  • Ensure necessities are being provided, like food, water, and bathroom breaks!

When working with the local school, we analyzed their staff feedback and other data in Tableau, a data visualization software. We discovered that a majority (59%) of staff felt always or often stressed at work. We also asked identifying questions so each school administrator would be able to pinpoint the specific work areas that cause stress to their employees. This knowledge helped develop an action to address staff well-being to benefit each school.

One method may not work for every organization or individual. Find what works best and continue to monitor progress and make adjusts as necessary.

At TCG, we want to help you move your mission forward and that often starts by taking care of your staff! We support organizations who want to have healthy staff, reduce turnover, increase productivity and engagement to accomplish their goals/ accelerate their impact! Do you need help accessing your team? Or maybe you already know your staff is stretched and you’re ready for additional support? Learn more about our services here, and Contact us today!

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Strategic Planning Process: Step 2

In this past blog we talked about the 4 Steps of Strategic Planning that we follow. A quick recap of the 4 steps are: Collaborate, Assess, Facilitate and Create. A few weeks ago we shared more about Step 1 in that process: “Collaborate”. Today we are continuing our blog series on strategic planning by focusing on Step 2 in the process: “Assess”.

Assess Highlighted

 

With many of our clients and partners, we find that they immediately want to jump to Steps 3 and 4 of the process, which is about goal and strategy setting. By skipping over Steps 1 and 2, organizations are missing out on a critical opportunity to get buy in and input from key stakeholders as well as embed a thoughtful review in the planning process.

We divide the assessment phase of the strategic planning process into two parts: Internal and External Assessment.

Internal Assessment

  • Organizational review: The internal assessment includes an analysis of the organization by looking at financial statements, programming, and organizational structure.  This might include summary reports of the organization and programs to determine results accomplished. You will want to look for trends, gaps and opportunities.  
  • Stakeholder feedback: We have several blogs that talk about stakeholder feedback here and here. Don’t forget to talk internally within your organization about the strategic plan by reaching out to clients (if appropriate), staff, volunteers, and board of directors.

External Assessment

  • Environmental Scan: The external assessment may include collecting information about the industry and sector that the organization operates. It might be helpful to provide a brief update about the latest research, policies and best practices that inform the work of your organization.
  • Community needs assessment: It might be helpful to complete an updated needs assessment of your community or targeted audience to ensure strong alignment with programs and needs. We have some blogs about this here and here.
  • Stakeholder feedback: Just like an internal assessment, there are some key stakeholders to reach out to for feedback and input to inform your planning process. This might include current and past funders, other community partners, and the public.

While completing a new strategic plan for Healthy Families Indiana, we included both an internal and an external assessment. We gathered key data points about the organization to bring to the planning team for review and discussion. We also completed an organizational history timeline exercise to help bring everyone together about the key milestones accomplished over the life of the program in the state. We sought feedback from various stakeholders within the organization, which included staff at different levels (direct service staff, supervisors and program managers) and across the state.

We also sought feedback from external stakeholders by reaching out to community partners who make referrals and have shared goals. These components provided important context to inform the discussion about goals for the future.

Once we gather all of this information, it is important to do some pre- analysis and synthesis of this information before it is shared with the planning team. We do this in a couple of ways for our clients:

  1. Pre-read report – We develop a narrative report that summarizes all of the information collected in the internal and external assessment. We use graphs and tables to make it as user-friendly as possible. It’s helpful to share this report in advance of a planning meeting or retreat, so that the team can review the information before meeting.
  2. Presentation – A presentation can be a simpler way of compiling the information and sharing it with the planning team. Sometimes we create both a narrative report and a presentation that summarizes the information gathered. The slide deck presentation can be helpful to highlight some of the key findings during the assessment phase.
  3. Dashboard – We talk about creating dashboards in this blog. Basically we love dashboards and how helpful they are to display multiple data points in a user-friendly format. We love to create dashboards that summarize internal and external assessment data to share with the planning team. See this one we created for a community strategic plan.

The main purpose of the “Assess” step in the strategic planning process is to gather important information to share with your planning team, so that they are well informed and equipped to develop a plan for the future. We would love to partner with your organization in developing a strategic plan. Contact us for more information!

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4 Tools to Collaborate with Key Stakeholders

Do you ever find yourself on a path with no direction? A strategic plan may be what you need to put you on the path to success. A strategic plan is essentially a road map for an organization’s program and goals. Transform Consulting Group helps programs develop their strategic plans with our 4 step process, which you can read more about in a previous blog. This blog focuses on step one in the process: Collaborate.

Collaborate Highlighted

We pride ourselves on step one, collaboration, to work with our clients and not for them. During the strategic planning process we work with you to identify the appropriate key stakeholders to inform the planning process. By engaging diverse stakeholders in organization’s planning process we not only help to increase buy in and ownership from those key stakeholders but also solicit rich feedback to inform the final plan.

The key stakeholders will vary depending on your organization, but typically they consist of external and internal stakeholders: involve some of the following individuals or groups:

Internal Stakeholders
External Stakeholders
  • Staff at different position levels in the organization
  • Current and past funders and donors
  • Board of Directors
  • Key community partners
  • Volunteers
  • Public
  • Clients

Once the key stakeholders are identified, how do we gather feedback from them to inform the planning process? We like to use a variety of methods to solicit stakeholder feedback. We ultimately select the tool based on appropriateness for the audience (for example a focus group may not be a better method for students and parents depending on literacy levels), timeline and budget. Our go to four tools for collecting stakeholder feedback are the following:

1. Surveys

This is a common method to use but to get really great feedback from surveys you need to hone your approach of how you administer it and the types of questions asked.

  • When creating a survey, consider the audience. For example, if you plan to survey youth, assess the reading level of the questions to make sure it is developmentally appropriate.
  • While you are considering the audience, think about the best method to share the survey. Is there a time when the audience regularly meets when a survey could be shared and collected in person at a meeting? Is the audience a broad community group making it difficult to reach the audience in one place?
  • You may need to connect with community resources to distribute the survey. We have partnered with the local economic development group to share online surveys to get local employer feedback.
  • Once you have determined the audience and the best way to distribute the survey, decide the most effective platform to create the survey. Platforms include printed copies or electronic. Electronically, we use SurveyMonkey, but there are several free, online tools available.

2. Focus Groups

If you want to get more in depth feedback beyond basic survey questions, a focus group or listening session may be the appropriate tool.

  • Create guided open-ended questions that prompt conversation during the focus group.
  • Again, identify if the stakeholder group has a regular meeting time when you could be added to the agenda to ask some questions and gather their feedback. We have done these at conferences, community meetings, and parent councils just to name a few.
  • Focus groups can be done in combination with surveys. We’ve done focus groups first to ask broad questions to a small group that will then inform a survey that goes out to the large group. We’ve also done focus groups after a survey to go deeper on the some of the questions asked in a survey.

3. Interviews

There is often a community member or business leader with expertise around the area of a strategic plan.

  • If they are not already a part of the planning process, invite them for an interview to gather feedback and information related to the strategic plan topic.
  • The stakeholders for individual interviews are typically people who have deep history, knowledge, experience or stake with the organization.
  • Similar to the focus group, outline open-ended questions, but leave room for unguided conversation as well depending on what they want to share.

4. Invitation to Planning Meetings

Some stakeholders are key decision makers and influencers in the community.

  • Bringing them to the table throughout the process will help keep them informed to know how to better share the message and goals of the strategic plan.
  • They will also be able to bring a different perspective from those within the organization, which helps avoid groupthink.
  • You could invite these stakeholders to one of your planning retreats to unpack all of the data and feedback collected and assist with identifying the key goals and strategies.

By5 Big PictureTo get more ideas about how to collaborate on a strategic plan, look at other successful organizations.

By5 is a leading organization for early childhood awareness in Muncie and Delaware County, Indiana. They have created a strategic plan through the collaboration of task force and volunteer efforts to improve the developmental opportunities for children ages 0-5.

When we were working with the Community Foundation of Wabash County to create a strategic plan for their coalition focused on early education we benchmarked other communities for lessons learned and strategies.

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Once the key stakeholders are identified and tools have been distributed for feedback, move onto step two, Assess. Follow our blog posts to find out effective methods for assessing your organization and community to inform your strategic plan. Contact us today to learn more about our strategic planning process and how we can work together to identify the appropriate key stakeholders and tools to inform the planning process.

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When Is It Time to Change Your Program?

At non-profit organizations, programs are often developed to meet a need in the community and drive positive change. Over time community demographics and culture may change, along with the needs of the clients. Organizations may find themselves in a position where they are not satisfied with their current impact, there is a lack of funding to support the program, or there is new research to inform the structure of the program or other items to consider. Any of these items might be a good indication that it is time to review your program or update it.

Four FactorsIMG_0736 to Consider Updating Your Program

  1. Dissatisfaction with Current Impact

As the needs of clients change, organizations may find that the impact of programs on participants is not as strong as they had hoped. This could be for many reasons. For example, programs’ services may no longer address the needs of the community. Programs may need to be adapted and different outcomes may need to be established in order to see a greater impact on participants. There are many reasons why program impact may tend to weaken. It is important to determine the root cause for low impact on program participants, in order to determine the next steps to move towards program re-development.

  1. Lack of Funding to Support the Program

Organizations strategically use funding that aligns with programs and services. In doing so, some non-profits rely so much on grants that it becomes challenging to sustain a program. Funding for programs is not permanent. Organizations may lose funding for a variety of reasons. The funder may have chosen to focus on a different social issue, funders may be dissatisfied with program outcomes and impact, or the funds just simply run dry. Based on some of the reasons listed, some funders may ask organizations for sustainability plans when submitting an application for funding.

  1. New Research Developments

In today’s information age, research is on-going and growing. As new developments are made in various disciplines, programs need to align to the latest research trends and practices. Funders want to fund data-driven, research-based programs that demonstrate impact. Programs could become outdated if the organization does not remain relevant with federal, state, and local trends.

  1. Changing Demographics

Many of today’s communities and residents seem to be ever changing. Some organizations do a great job of assessing their targeted communities and understanding the changing trends and demographics. It is important to make sure that the programs and services your organization is providing are serving the intended audience. It is possible that you may need to update your programs to better serve the current target population or look at providing your services in a new community if that is a better fit with your mission and goals. See this blog post to help you consider relocating or moving into a new community!

We have helped other organizations in determining that it was time to update their program. In working with United Way of Central Indiana on their ReadUP program, we helped them assess how to expand their reach and capacity by leveraging AmeriCorps volunteers. They wanted to grow their reach based on the need in the community but didn’t know how to make it happen with their current capacity. It also turned into a good opportunity reassess the target population and align with the latest research.

Has your organization’s programs experienced some of the stated challenges? If you believe it is time to change your program, contact us today!

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Why Are Financial Goals Important?

Your organization probably has a mission statement and strategies in place for achieving your program goals, but do you also have concrete financial goals? Whether you administer a nonprofit, faith-based organization, or a small business, you have to think about the financial health of your organization.

Your mission and program goals are, by definition, tied to financial goals. Serving your clients and families, as well as paying your staff, requires funding. If you haven’t thought about the health of your current budget or your future financial goals, now is the time! The 4 steps outlined below can guide you.

Step 1: Assess your organization’s finances.

  • First, you may need to spend time reviewing your current revenue, expenses, and the quality of your bookkeeping. In this process, engage your leadership team, board of directors, and/or financial consultants.
  • If needed, determine how to improve your accounting practices. Keep in mind that accounting and other supportive services are part of what enables your programming to have the desired impact.
  • If your organization is not consistently breaking even, then that will inform your financial goals. If your revenue exceeds your costs, how are you reinvesting it in your mission?

Step 2: Set specific goals for your program, such as increasing funding or serving more clients.

  • Separate from the process of reviewing your budget, do you have ideas for the future of your program?
  • Does your organization have an up-to-date strategic plan? In your planning process, did you start by determining the end results that you want to see?
    • What are your plans for program improvement? Goals for Financial Goals Blog
    • Is your organization looking to replicate its services in another geographic region?
    • Did your needs assessment indicate that you should expand to serve a broader range of clients and families?
  • As you are going through the process of turning big ideas into program goals, be sure that you make your goals Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely, or SMART.

Step 3: Set financial goals that will enable you to meet your program goals. What will it cost to meet these goals?

  • You may have some goals for your organization that do not require additional funding. Perhaps you need to prioritize your current funding and/or staff time.
  • Other goals, like serving additional clients, expanding to a new region, and increasing staff wages, do require additional funding.
  • Quantify your specific short-term and long-term funding goals. Then, specify how these goals help you achieve your desired outcomes.Financial Goals-Blog image

Step 4: Develop specific strategies to accomplish your financial goals.

  • One possible strategy is decreasing your current costs. Review your spending from the past few years to see if there are opportunities to save money.
    • You may find that your organization is using resources for activities that are not as closely tied to your mission as they should be.
    • Could you negotiate with any of your vendors for lower service fees?
  • Bringing in additional revenue can be a daunting task. Break it down into smaller pieces.
    • What type of funding are you already accessing that could be increased?
      • Could you raise more from individual or corporate donors?
      • Could you increase your fees for services?
    •  What other funding sources are you not already accessing?
      • Could you write a grant for the first time?
      • Is there government funding available that supports your field?

As you assess the overall health of your organization, remember to focus on areas in which your background is not strong. If you are the director of early childhood education program, then your experience and education is likely in the field of child development. You probably have a lot of ideas to improve the quality of education at your program. Also be sure to consult experts in other areas, like finance, to ensure you are making the most impact!

Our team is currently engaged in a project funded by Partnerships for Early Learners, a program of Early Learning Indiana. We are working with 10 early learning programs across Indiana to help them meet their financial goals. Going through this 4-step process is different for each program. The programs are structured differently and bring unique skills to the table. Despite their differences, each program has been able to set specific goals and find funding strategies that will work best for them.

If you’re ready to jump into this process and need some help with goal setting or fund development, contact us at Transform Consulting Group for a free consultation!

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Three Tips to Scale Up Your Social Program

Social programs are often developed to address service-gaps within communities. As the program evolves and retains strong outcomes over time, organizations may look for ways to expand the services.

The Wallace Foundation recently produced a report called Strategies to Scale Up Social Programs. In this report, researchers conducted a study focusing on what it takes to scale up programs and identified three key strategies.

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Three Strategies to Consider to Scale Up Your Program

1. Organizational Structure:

There are three organizational structures to consider when determining the proper path for scaling up a program.

  • Branching:  If an organization chooses “branching” as a strategy, the program will be offered at multiple sites under the control of the lead organization. Utilizing this strategy may mean slower growth and expansion for the program due to the fact that the lead agency must manage the various sites. The benefit of branching for program expansion is that the lead agency remains in control of the program delivery and model.
  • Affiliate: Organizations utilizing the affiliate path are able to offer and expand their program to other sites. In this option, the partnering organization has basic control over the program like the leading agency would in the branching pathway. Sometimes these independent organizations are under contract with the lead organization who developed the program.
  • Distributing network: This option allows for an organization to develop the content of a program, but leans heavily on its partners to implement the contents of the program as they have been written. These organizations tend to have a national or regional geographic reach.
2. Partnerships:

Scaling up a program involves multiple partnerships.  No lead organization can successfully scale on their own. Successful organizations who participated in the study noted that supporting and implementing partnerships are very important to bring programs to scale. When making the decision on who to partner with, consider the following:

  • Resources – What resource gaps (i.e. funding, implementation, etc.) can the partnering organization support to bring the program to scale?
  • Organizational Structure – Which partnering organization can best assist with the organizational type of bringing the program to scale?
  • Knowledge and Experience – Does this partner have experience and knowledge within this particular field? Who can help guide the process?
3. Program Model:

When bringing programs to scale, the program model was well defined and possibly refined with demonstrated impact prior to scaling. After scaling, it is not uncommon for the program model to be altered due to program adaptation or reinvention. Based on this study in particular, reinventions of programs often occur in order to change the delivery model, target audience, or program’s focus.  To ensure that the program model remains intact as much as possible, lead organizations may provide implementation guidance to those implementing partners. Online resources like toolkits are also a helpful resource for partner organizations to reference. Although this strategy may help in program fidelity, the overall monitoring process for the lead organization to maintain program control varies. Some organizations utilize tools such as Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs), dashboards, on-going evaluations, etc.

Client Spotlight

We are working with a college and career readiness client to help them evaluate their impact. One of their goals for completing the evaluation is to make the case for scaling the program to other communities. It has been the discussion for many years at this organization. However, before they could begin the steps identified above, they first need to affirm that they have a well structured program model with demonstrated impact. Then we could take them through the three steps noted to determine if scaling is an option and the appropriate path forward!  

We, here at Transform Consulting Group, are equipped to assist your organization with bringing programs to scale during a time where social needs, communities, and family demographics are forever changing. If you want help with bringing you program to scale or need assistance addressing reinventions and adaptations contact us today!

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Three Steps to Facilitate a Strategic Planning Retreat

17855554_690376437789787_5551209555832880363_oWhat comes to mind when someone says the word “retreat”? In the dictionary, “retreat” has a few different meanings: an act of moving back or withdrawing; a quiet or secluded place in which one can rest and relax; an act of changing one’s decisions, plans, or attitude, especially as a result of criticism from others. If we apply these definitions to a “planning retreat”, we can conclude that it is a meeting where a group can step back from regular daily activities to discuss decisions, plans and goals to help inform a strategic plan and future decisions. This means you don’t need to leave town to have an effective planning retreat!

Whether you are leading a planning retreat or participating in one, what makes an effective planning retreat? The facilitator can ensure the group has a plan and accomplishes their goals. A participant can help keep the conversation on topic, as it is common for a group to want to jump into the solutions of a plan before determining the focus areas.

Earlier this year, we discussed the 4 Steps of Strategic Planning. Step three is to “facilitate consensus”, which usually occurs at a planning retreat. The main purpose of this step is for the planning team to start to reach consensus about the future direction for the organization, including goals and strategies. We follow three key steps to lead an effective planning retreat.

1. Provide Summarized Materials

First, create a pre-read packet of summarized materials from the first two steps of the strategic planning process. This helps equip the planning team with rich feedback from the key stakeholders (step 1: collaborate) and understand the context (step 2: assess). You also want to give your planning team enough time to review and process the information before the day-of retreat. This allows the group to make thoughtful recommendations. There are several ways to present a pre-read packet: a narrative report, a PowerPoint presentation or an interactive online file.

During a project with the Wabash County Early Childhood Education Committee, we created a Tableau Public file titled the “Impact of Early Childhood Education in Wabash County”. This included five tabs summarizing key community demographic data, program information and stakeholder feedback from employers and parents. The titles for visuals were worded as a question to help the audience pull out key messages from the information. During the planning retreat, we reviewed this information but they had already seen it and digested the information. This allowed us to start having some meaningful conversations.

2. Identify “What” You Want to Accomplish

After leading the team through a review of the information, the majority of time is spent to make meaning with the data and identify goals and strategies for the future. Having some great discussion questions is helpful to focus the conversation with participants and help them use the information presented.

Many participants at planning retreats want to jump right into strategies or solutions. We work hard to help steer the conversation to reaching agreement first on the “what” we want to accomplish with the strategic plan. Help the group to narrow their ideas to 3-5 key focus areas or goals to help carry the strategic plan forward. By bringing the team together, they will have consensus. As we have mentioned earlier, buy-in from the team is crucial to keep momentum going for the strategic plan.

This discussion time can be done as a full team, split into small groups or partners depending on the size of the planning team. If you do break into small groups make sure you come back together as a large group and collectively reach consensus about the goals/ focus areas. We like to use stickers to help participants “vote” or prioritize their top choices.

3. Determine “How” You Will Accomplish It

Finally, after the “what” is determined, transition the team to discuss the development of key strategies and solutions that address the focus areas. This is the “how” we will accomplish the goals of the strategic plan. Similar to the previous step, discussion can be as a group or broken up into teams.

The timeline of your strategic plan will help determine how many strategies are appropriate for each goal/ focus area. Again, we encourage participants to narrow the focus to 5-7 key strategies. If you have 5 goals and 5-7 strategies per goal, then there could be upwards of 35 strategies that your organization will be working to implement. We work really hard to support organizations in having aspirational strategic plans as well as realistic and achievable.18403781_704582429702521_8230617511511406933_o

Once you have your top goals and strategies identified, then you can “workshop” them into a more detailed operations or implementation plan that explains the who, what, and when in much more detail. This is what sets apart a strategic plan from sitting on the shelf and not being implemented to a strategic plan that truly moves the organization or community forward.

There are different tools and activities that can be used during the facilitation step of the strategic planning process. Depending on what works best, the main thing to remember is to engage, focus and prioritize.

Now that you have hosted an effective planning retreat you are ready for the final step of the strategic planning process – create. If you need assistance with facilitating an effective planning retreat, or with any step of the planning process, Transform Consulting Group is here to help. Contact us today!

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Shared Services: How Can Your Organization Maximize Impact While Minimizing Costs?

Many organizations struggle to secure enough funding to have the maximum impact on the goals aligned to their mission. In addition to seeking new funding to support your organization’s goals, you can examine your current expenses to find ways of reducing costs in order to put more money into programs that help accomplish your mission.

There is a national trend of small and medium-size organizations coming together to “share services,” specifically noncore business services. If your business or organization is small, you may not have the budget to enable you to hire specialists on your staff for all operations, such as payroll, human resources, marketing, and accounting. By participating in shared services, your organization might be increasing your funding by lowering your costs! Shared Services Blog

Is Using Shared Services Right For Your Organization?

  • Shared services can take different forms, but typically a supporting organization has staff that handle operations for member organizations.
  • Member organizations pay fees to receive shared services. These fees are often lower than the cost of employing in-house specialized staff or seeking these services independently.
  • While guidelines can vary, in general, any organization or business—for-profit or nonprofit—can use shared services. Smaller organizations may reap more benefits, but larger entities are not prohibited from participating.
  • Shared services require collaboration.
    • Members must be willing to disclose their financial and business practices. This may feel uncomfortable for some. However, it allows members to get the full benefits of the shared knowledge and expertise of centralized staff.
    • Individual organizations maintain autonomy over some decisions—such as personnel management. However, issues related to centralized services require collaboration.

What Do Shared Services Look Like In Action?

Transform Consulting Group actually uses shared services in our business model! Human Capital Concepts (HCC) provides us with human resources expertise, as well as payroll and benefits administration. HCC is a Professional Employer Organization (PEO), which means that our Transform staff members are co-employed by HCC along with their other clients. Therefore, we are part of a larger employee pool—allowing us to get the best rates for our health insurance and 401K plans. As a small business, we don’t have to worry about having a human resources director in order to maintain compliance with state and federal laws. Because of the services we receive from HCC, we can focus on projects that advance our mission!

Chambliss Center for Children in Chattanooga, TN is a nonprofit organization that operates an early childhood care and education program that serves over 300 children. In addition to operating their own site, they have management agreements with 5 other early childhood programs in the community. Administrative staff at Chambliss Center for Children manage the day-to-day operations of these 5 programs, but each of the programs has their own board of directors. Some of the services include payroll and benefits administration; insurance contract coordination; maintenance; and purchasing of food and supplies. The programs report that some of the positive impacts for them are the ability to increase teacher wages; decreased staff turnover; and improved program quality!

What Can You Do If You’re Interested?

Contact local and statewide partners to learn about shared services providers in your area.

  • Your local United Way
  • Your community foundation
  • Local chapter of the Chamber of Commerce
  • Area small business resource center

Transform Consulting Group provides an array of services related to fundraising strategies. Shared services may be a good fit for your organization as one piece of your overall fund development plan. For more information about increasing your impact while decreasing your costs, contact us for a free consultation!

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Does Your Organization Have a Continuous Quality Improvement Process?

During a time where communities and policies are changing, it is important to ensure the programs and services within those communities are constantly evolving to meet the needs of families. The Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) model is an on-going process for organizations to be able to determine whether or not a change made led to an improvement in quality. In order to move towards making the necessary improvements, a review of what occurred is conducted through a CQI process like the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycle.

Steps to Complete a PDSA Cycleplan-act-do-study-cycle4

At Transform Consulting Group, we utilize this consistent approach when working with organizations to help them find solutions.

Plan:

Before beginning your PDSA cycle, you will need to have identified a problem you would like to address for quality improvement. The problem identified will guide your purpose for the review. Once you have chosen a change idea to focus on you will need to go through the following steps to plan to test your idea for change:

  • Define the goals
  • Define your research question(s)
  • Make predictions
  • Determine details for implementation of change or intervention
  • Plan of action for data collection

During this phase, we work with the client to thoughtfully plan to implement their new or current program/ service. So often, organizations jump immediately to step 2 – “Do” without completing this critical first step.  During the Planning, we define what we hope to accomplish especially if we are proposing a change.  Then we determine how the proposed change/ intervention will be implemented and work through all of the details.  Lastly, we finalize how data will be collected.

Do:

This phase of the PDSA cycle requires you to conduct the test for the change or intervention. It is during this phase that you will complete the following tasks:

  • Carry out the intervention
  • Collect data
  • Begin data analysis

This step in the process is what most organizations know and are doing. Organizations are delivering interventions everyday with their services. They might be intentionally or unintentionally modifying their intervention.  The “Do” step in this process is not new to organizations.  It is wrapping it around the other three steps that make this work transformational!

Study:

The study phase of the cycle is the time where once you have completed your intervention, you analyze the data and study what did or did not occur.   Organizations will want to review their predictions and assumptions made before conducting the test. You will want to take the following steps during this phase of the cycle:

  • Complete data analysis
  • Compare data to predictions
  • Summarize the information

Organizations often skip over this step in the process or do not spend enough time thoughtfully reviewing the data. For some organizations, their data can be considered “high stakes” and there is a tendency to want to focus on the positive changes/ results that occurred and glance over the changes that did not occur or the benchmarks that were not met.  During this phase, it is so important for an organization to be transparent and honest with themselves when reviewing the data.

Act:

Based on the summarized information, this last phase of the cycle allows you to determine what modifications may need to be made to ensure that the goals you set will be met. Your organization may decide to modify a program element or change how a service is delivered; you may decide to target a different population or use a new curriculum.  Once you have determined whether or not to adapt, adopt, or abandon your intervention, you will be prepared to do the following:

  • Plan next cycle
  • Decide whether the change can be implemented

During this last step, your organization takes all of the information gathered to make data-informed decisions that will ultimately improve your results.  This is the exciting part of the process, and one that you don’t want to skip. This step and the overall PDSA process will help your organization continue to improve the quality of services provided and impact in the community.

In this blog, “Is it time to redesign your program?”, we shared several examples of clients who we used the PDSA process to help them test and implement new interventions/ modifications to make to their programs to improve their outcomes. The CQI process allows organizations to have a plan of action once a problem or service gap has been identified.

At Transform Consulting Group, we follow this consistent approach when helping you find solutions to accelerate your impact. If you are looking to improve the quality of a service or program to facilitate positive change, contact us today!

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