Preparing the Strategy Process by Dr. Rob Sheehan

“We are too busy doing stuff!  We don’t have time for strategic planning!”

Once you get past this objection then you get: “Okay, but we need to be efficient!”  Which I appreciate.  None of us have the time for everything we want to get done.

But I do recommend that you be deliberative about three aspects of preparing for your strategic planning process before charging ahead too quickly:

 7 P’s Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance – Period!

1.  Consider conducting a Board Self-Assessment prior to the strategy process.  The benefits of this are making sure that your Board is operating as a high performing team, that they understand their responsibilities, and that you have the “Right Board” ready to do the strategy work.  My favorite example is a Board which legitimately did not realize that fundraising was one of their responsibilities.  Following a self-assessment, they enthusiastically accepted the responsibility and it made them realize they needed to add some additional, well connected Board members prior to strategic planning.

2.  Take the time to connect with and involve stakeholders in the process.  This takes time, but is well worth it.  Check out this blog for more on the value of nurturing stakeholders continuously.  They can provide ideas and insights you might otherwise miss, and will be more likely to support implementation if you involve them early on.

3.  Carefully select your Strategy Planning Committee.  I recommend a group of 15-20 people – and a mix of Board, Staff, and Stakeholders.  With fewer than 15, I get concerned about the lack of divergent thinking.  With more than 20, it gets unwieldy.  Make sure you have the right Board representation so that the final product will pass through the full Board.  And consider involving junior staff as well as management.  Community stakeholders, potential Board member, funders, and those who utilize the services are great voices to have at the strategy table.

Thorough prep will improve your overall strategy process and allow you to make even more of a Mission Impact!

With more than 30 years of executive management experience, including 18 years as the CEO of two different national nonprofits, Rob uniquely blends in-the-trenches experience with extensive academic research. As Principal of Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting, Rob provides consulting services in strategy development and implementation, leadership and teamwork development, board development, and succession planning for nonprofits and government entities. For more information on Rob, go to

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