Tag Archives: Strategic Planning

How to Implement your Strategic Plan

In January, we kicked off our Exercise Your Impact campaign. Throughout 2019 we’re sharing tools and resources that highlight critical phases of organizational planning. Our first quarter focus is on the first phase: Strategic Planning. As we finish out the quarter, we want to provide some tips on how to use and implement your strategic plan.

Our process graphic

In a previous blog series, we highlighted the 4 steps of strategic planning and detailed each step (step 1, step 2, step 3, step 4). But what happens once you’ve completed those steps? We often find that organizations get stuck on figuring out how to take the big picture elements in the strategic plan and make them operational. To avoid this, we create an “implementation plan” during Step 4. This implementation plan unpacks the strategic plan into actionable steps. It provides your organization with a road map for how to accomplish the goals identified in the strategic plan.

HFI - Implementation Plan Pg 7

We recently worked with Healthy Families Indiana (HFI) to help them develop their strategic plan, including a detailed implementation plan. We are currently helping them implement the plan while providing project management support for their Think Tank. The following four components are key pieces of any implementation plan.

Key Implementation Plan Components 

Strategies/Goals: It is important to include any priorities and goals that are set within your strategic plan in your implementation plan. For example, one of HFI’s key goals from their strategic plan is to translate information about brain science to share with parents. Including this goal in the implementation plan ensured that they had a detailed plan to actually achieve it.

Action steps: For each strategy/goal, the implementation plan will spell out action steps to help your organization meet that goal. The tasks associated with the HFI goal listed above included developing or identifying a family-facing brain science resource to share with parents.

Timeline: The implementation plan will indicate which year you plan to complete each task. For example, if you have set a three-year strategic plan, it is important to evenly schedule tasks out over those three years. For example, HFI determined that in their long-term schedule, developing and/or identifying family facing brain science resources would fit best within 2019.

Responsibility: It is important that the implementation plan indicate who is responsible for completing each task. Identifying those responsible helps to ensure accountability and track progress. The responsible party could be a group or individual. They could be staff, board members, or a committee. HFI identified the Think Tank as being the most appropriate group to complete the task outlined in the previous components.

Tips for Using your Implementation Plan

  • When carrying out an implementation plan, it is important to establish a procedure to track progress on tasks. For example, we’ve done this for clients by creating a spreadsheet that they can update on a quarterly basis to track actions they’ve taken.
  • An organization can update their implementation plan over time if needed. Tasks may take a longer or shorter amount of time than anticipated, so it is appropriate to update timelines as you go.

TCG is privileged to work with organizations at all stages of the strategic planning and implementation process. We are currently helping another client, Manchester Early Learning Center, finalize their strategic plan. We’re excited to watch them carry it out!

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As we finish the first quarter of 2019, we’re also looking forward to the second ‘leg’ of our Exercise Your Impact campaign: Program Development. Once you have set the strategic vision for your organization it is time to take a closer look at your program(s) to assess whether your current programming is in a place to help you achieve that vision. Contact us today to see how we can assist you with your strategic planning or programming needs!

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3 Strategic Plan Tools to Create

Congratulations! You have journeyed through the 4 steps of our Strategic Planning Process and you’re ready for the final step: Create. (We covered step 1, step 2, and step 3 in previous blogs).

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The goal of a strategic plan is to develop timely, relevant and action-oriented plans for the future of your organization. Once you have a clear direction, it is time to make sense of the information and package it in a way that is meaningful and possible to implement.  

At TCG, we believe a strategic plan has little value if it is a report that sits on your shelf, never to be seen again. We don’t create long strategic plan reports that you can’t use. We want you to use it, share it and review it on a regular basis.

When working with clients, we recommend and create 3 different strategic plan tools:

1. One-page strategic plan – This is a one-page summary of your goals and top strategies. This tool can be shared externally with partners, funders, and other key stakeholders as well as internally with staff.

When creating a strategic plan for the Wabash County Early Childhood Education Committee, we wanted a one-page overview that highlighted the following key elements:Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 2.03.33 PM

a. Stakeholders involved (especially since this is a collective impact, multi-sector plan)

b. Goals

c. Strategies

d. Outcomes

Each one-pager for the strategic plan that we create is unique to the client but essentially covers their top goals and strategies.

2. Strategic plan report – This report explains the process of how the strategic plan was completed, the information that was collected, and more details about the goals and strategies. This is typically an internal document that is shared with staff and the board to use when reflecting on the process. It’s especially helpful to document this information for when there are leadership transitions with the staff and board.

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3. Implementation plan – Too often we find that organizations get stuck with figuring out how to take the big picture elements in the strategic plan and make them operational. We create an “implementation plan” to unpack the strategic plan into actionable steps for staff, committees and the board. The main audience for the implementation plan is staff, board and committee members who are most likely responsible for implementation.  Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 2.04.09 PM


This could be set up like a calendar or a chart that describes who is responsible for each step. We also love using Tableau to create a strategic plan dashboard to track and monitor action items and milestones. The point is that we want all parties involved to have a clear understanding of the timeline, so that they can put the plan in motion.

Is your organization ready to jump into a strategic planning process? Learn more about our strategic planning services here. Contact us today, and we’d love to chat about how our team can meet your needs.

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3 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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Getting the Most Out of Your Needs Assessment

Recently Transform Consulting Group finished the annual needs assessment for the Indiana Head Start State Collaboration Office (IHSSCO).   Each Head Start State Collaboration Office is required to annually submit a needs assessment, which informs their strategic plan goals and objectives.  

IHSSCO uses their needs assessment to inform their annual work plan, and all organizations should make the connection between a needs assessment and the organization’s strategic goals!  Whether you want to conduct a needs assessment, program or organization evaluation, or annual report, don’t miss the chance to do one of the following:  

  1. Use your assessment to solicit new feedback or data.

The IHSSCO needs assessment solicited new feedback this year.  We interviewed and surveyed external stakeholders and Head Start partners.  If you’re going to request feedback, make sure you show you’re doing something with it.  No one likes to provide feedback, and then see that nothing changes. For Head Start partners and stakeholders, they will soon be able to read the needs assessment report and see the recommendations for solutions that address some of their feedback.

  1. Take the time to learn from your data.

Data is collected and reported on, but beyond totals and percentages, what does your data say?  What questions does it raise to inform your assessment and planning efforts? For example, we wanted to know:

  • How do Indiana Early Head Start and Head Start programs compare to national statistics?
  • Where are Early Head Start and Head Start centers located across the state, and is it proportionate to the population and need?  Image
  • What percentage of children are being served?  
  • Is there more of a demand for Early Head Start and Head Start in rural or urban areas?

Besides the demographics of your program participants and the outputs of a program, look for issues and barriers, gaps or overlap in services or clients, layer the data with other relevant indicators, and don’t forget to look at outcomes as well!

  1. Make sure you share the report – internally and externally.  

A needs assessment can take a great deal of time, effort, and resources from multiple individuals.  Once the process is completed, it is easy to do a quick review of the findings with program staff and then put it on the shelf.  The needs assessment report and its findings are not only important to program staff; it can also provide insight to all staff, program participants, funders, and external stakeholders/partners.  Check out this past blog for more ideas!

Make the report accessible and relevant.  Many people may only be interested in reading an executive summary of the report or skipping straight to the recommendations.  Others may be more attracted to infographics or dashboards. Decide how to best present your data for your audience, and then post these materials on your website, link to them in a newsletter, or mention them on social media.
If you’re ready to do things differently with your needs assessment but are not sure where to start, contact us today to discuss ways Transform Consulting Group can help!

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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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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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NAEYC’s New Strategic Direction

 

NAEYCEvery year, businesses make the dash to evaluate their strategic plans and refine goals. Nonprofits are no exception. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) is leading the charge in creating a completely new and innovative Strategic Direction. These new changes were formed through utilizing the opinions of NAEYC members, leaders, staff and volunteers that were asked about NAEYC’s previous mission, vision, and goals.

The new Strategic Direction includes a new mission statement, a new vision statement, and a commitment to the core values. With five strategic priorities set (or strategic goals) the NAEYC is hoping to accomplish the following in 2015:

  • Children ages birth through eight have access to high-quality learning.
  • Early childhood education profession demonstrates excellence.
  • NAEYC is recognized as a highly credible, visible and valuable organization.
  • NAEYC is excellent in organizational health and vitality.
  • NAEYC cultivates leadership and demonstrates innovative strategies.

The new Strategic Direction will reinforce NAEYC’s commitment to their core beliefs and core values. By reinforcing commitment to their core beliefs and values, the NAEYC will reaffirm their vision that “all young children thrive and learn in a society dedicated to ensuring they reach their full potential.” A more in-detail look can be found by reading the Strategic Direction document and taking a look at the organization’s website.

Transform Consulting Group has helped many organizations refocus their strategic direction. As NAYEC is developing a new strategic plan, we can your organization do the same.


 

 

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