You’re planning the trip of a lifetime with friends – or maybe just your first real post-COVID vacation. You’ve saved up leave time and money, you’ve packed your bags, you’ve highlighted the must-see places… now you just need to figure out how to get there. Back in the 90s, you would have printed out directions on Mapquest. In the 80s, you might have stopped by AAA for a customized TripTik. But today, you have a magical device in your hand or your dashboard that can show you the way (and get you around the unexpected traffic jam). GPS has freed us to explore off the beaten path, knowing we can find our way home or to our hotel at the end of each day.
Many of us wouldn’t consider a road trip without GPS... and yet many organizations plunge ahead toward their goals without first creating their own version of this invaluable tool: a strategic plan.
The organizational managers with whom we work truly have a passion for what they do. They address real needs in their industries and communities, and want to contribute to improving the quality of their customers’ and neighbors’ lives. Their passion is infectious! The people who support their work – their colleagues, board members, stakeholders, and benefactors – are often caught up in the emotional appeal of the organizations’ missions and devote countless hours to making it a reality. However, in too many cases, the organization can’t quite get any traction or reach the tipping point of success. What is standing in their way?
When organizational leaders fail to define their goals or create a realistic plan to achieve them, it is all but impossible for the team to make real progress towards them. As a team they don’t have a collective understanding of what they want to accomplish or how each of them contributes to that process. Just like a GPS requires a destination to provide us with directions, so, too, do organizations need first to set concrete goals before trying to achieve them. When we don’t know where finish line is, it’s very hard to set a direct course for it.
Setting strategic goals and formulating a plan to achieve them is an ongoing process, and it should incorporate the points of view of every level in an organization. Charting a clear path forward is a blend of both vision and pragmatism; getting the entire organization to buy into the goals requires valuing their inputs as much as the work they will do to realize them.