How do we get from here to there?
Step 4 in the strategic planning process is implementation. In this step, what you are seeking to discover is how are you going to accomplish these changes?
The end result of this step is what you’ve been waiting for: your strategic plan!
Experience has taught us that without a concrete plan of action even the best intentions can be thwarted in the busyness of day-to-day agency management. We need something simple and concrete to keep us on track. Community Literacy of Ontario recommends creating a checklist with step-by-step actions we can take to actually accomplish what we set out to do. We show you a sample implementation chart later on in this section.
Implementation is a key step in the strategic planning process. For some more wise advice, please click here to read “Translating Vision into Action” at www.charityvillage.com/cv/research/rstrat16.html.
In the implementation step you need to decide:
- What you plan to accomplish
- What to do every step of the way
- Who will do what
- When it will happen
- How you will know you were successful
The final product is your strategic plan!
How you go about it
In order to identify the specific steps the agency must take, begin by thinking backwards from the goal to where you are now, and then identify what is necessary to fill in the gap. Sound familiar? This is exactly what most practitioners do on a regular basis when they develop individual training plans with adult learners. It’s the very same concept. This step can be completed by an individual or with others working in a group.
The following questions can help guide your thinking when setting out steps the agency must take to reach it goals.
- Is any specific information required? Is a consultation required? With whom? (Write down, “Gather information about _____”.)
- Is additional professional development required? What kind of training is needed, and how will you offer it?
- Is stakeholder input necessary? How will you obtain that?
- What decisions need to be made and what actions need to be taken?
- Are there new contacts to be made, or partners to be sought?
- Is there a need to prepare information to share with others? What information and in what form?
- Are new tools or documents required?
- What feedback will you seek?
- Is there a need to get approval or buy-in from others? How will you do that?
It is important that one person does not shoulder all the responsibility for implementing the strategic plan. Not only would the burden be too heavy, having more people involved in implementation increases buy-in and support for the plan.
You may find that many of the steps fall naturally under someone else’s responsibility already, and you simply need to communicate or clarify what is needed. Don’t overlook members of the board and other volunteers who may be able to assume some responsibility. It might be useful to look up employee job descriptions to see who might logically take on particular tasks. Assigning responsibility might be a good collaborative activity. With other stakeholders, simply read out the actions, step by step, asking “Who will look after this one?” Others may be more willing to share the responsibility when they see how much seems to fall to one or two staff members. Consider the interests and skills set of staff and volunteers. Are there any natural fits that come to mind?
Determining appropriate timelines
At the beginning of the planning process, you identified an approximate timeframe the strategic plan would cover. Now is the time you can firm that up and decide which action items will take precedence. If it’s a three-year plan, look at the strategic action items and identify what the agency will focus on in year one, year two and year three. At a later time you can go back and assign more specific target dates within each year for carrying out individual steps.
Drafting Your Final Strategic Plan
We have arrived at the final documentation task which, when completed, will provide your agency with a comprehensive strategic plan that can take the agency step by step to continued improvements of performance and new successful ventures.
A strategic plan pulls together all previous steps along with implementation decisions for a complete package of what actions you are taking and why, who is going to do them and when. Your strategic plan should be a document that provides details on the following:
- Strategic action items you will concentrate on over the next few years
- Steps you will take to achieve your goals
- Who is responsible for carrying out tasks
- Timelines for carrying out tasks
- A means of keeping track of actions taken
Creating your strategic plan
- Set up a chart with five columns. We’ve included an example below. Cut and paste the appropriate action items you decided to pursue in the decision- making phase into the first column. If you wish, add the stated goal in the same box.
- In the second column, identify the concrete steps you will take to address each action item and goal.
- Decide who will take responsibility for the various steps and enter their names in column three.
- Decide when each step can best be addressed and write the specific dates in the “when” column (column four).
- Keep column five (“monitoring”) blank for now but fill it out as your implement your plan. There is more about that in the next section!
Strategic plan template
Here is a sample strategic action template developed by Community Literacy of Ontario that has worked well for us and other literacy organizations.
Our Strategic Plan
What do you do with the strategic plan once it is finished? It has been a lot of work, but you now have a completed document that demonstrates your agency’s capacity to carry out program evaluation (the assessment of your internal environment), community assessment (the assessment of the external environment) and strategic planning. It is important to share your strategic plan widely with key stakeholders so others can see and learn from what you have accomplished.
Choose carefully what information you want to share with whom. While your board of directors, staff and other key stakeholders should see the full strategic plan, not everyone should see your full plan with all the details of your strategies. For general circulation and promotion purposes, create an edited version that summarizes the areas you are going to focus on for the next few years and the broadly stated strategic actions you will take. This shortened version can be shared with the community at large and current and prospective partners. Perhaps put it into brochure form or publicize it as a news release.
Make sure that the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities and other funders receive a copy of your strategic plan. In the current government environment, funders strongly emphasize strategic planning and continuous quality improvement. Having an up-to-date strategic plan is an excellent way to show your agency’s strengths and commitment to continuous improvement!
Questions and Activities for Reflection
- Implementation is a challenge for many agencies. What steps could you take to ensure that your agency’s strategic plan does get fully implemented?
- What creative steps could you take to ensure that the work of implementation is shared amongst many stakeholders in your agency?
- What stakeholders would you share your full plan with? Why?
- What stakeholders would you share abbreviated strategic plan with? Why?