There are three mistakes that an organization should avoid in relation to the strategic planning process. This article describes what these three mistakes are and what you should do in order to ensure you will avoid them.

The first mistake to avoid in relation to strategic planning is not preparing for the actual strategic planning session. If an organization doesn't adequately prepare for the planning event, it will most likely hinder its ability to develop a meaningful strategic plan. To avoid this mistake, make sure that you invest whatever time is needed to adequately prepare for the strategic planning session.

One of the things you can do to prepare is to solicit feedback from internal and external stakeholders prior to the event. This is generally done through conducting a SWOTT analysis. The SWOTT is a tool that is used to solicit input and feedback from internal and external stakeholders as to what they would consider to be strengths and weaknesses of the organization, what opportunities and threats may help or hinder the organization, and what trends could impact the organization's mission and viability. This information is vital in terms of developing goals and objectives related to the organization's future.

In addition to the SWOTT analysis, an organization should look at its previous strategic plan, if applicable, to ensure it has met all of its goals and objectives. If a specific goal or objective wasn’t met, but is still important, the organization may want to include it in its new strategic plan.
In preparing for the strategic planning session, the organization should also decide who it wants present at the actual session. Generally, planning sessions involve the organization's board of directors and executive director, and quite often the organization's management team. However, organizations could invite external stakeholders, such as vendors, contractors, and collaborative partners, if they feel it would be beneficial to involve and solicit input from a larger group of stakeholders.

In its preparatory work, the organization should also decide, among other things, when and where the event will be held, who the facilitator will be, and which documents and equipment will be needed to ensure a successful planning session. A checklist, itemizing every task that needs to be taken care of prior to the strategic planning session, should be developed and used each time the organization decides to engage in strategic planning.

The second mistake to avoid in relation to strategic planning is conducting an unorganized and poorly managed planning session. To address this mistake, the facilitator should engage the group in developing and adopting a set of ground rules they will adhere to, in order to encourage input, facilitate dialogue, and make the session run smoothly, resulting in a plan that best meets the needs of the clients and organization. It is best to develop and approve ground rules prior to the actual session, so the session is devoted entirely to itemizing and prioritizing goals and objectives.

After the ground rules are established, a pre-determined process should be in place to review and discuss SWOTT analysis results; previous planning goals and objectives that were not completed, and whether or not the organization should incorporate these items in its next plan; and the organization’s current and future needs. All areas that need to be addressed should be listed. Then through a voting process, the organization’s priorities should emerge. Focusing on the top priorities, a draft strategic plan should be developed. Again, it is recommended that the organization decide on a process prior to the actual strategic planning session, so that the session is devoted entirely to itemizing and prioritizing goals and objectives.

To organize the organization’s priorities and develop a draft plan, a strategic plan template should be used. This template should have columns that identify the organization’s goals, each goal’s objectives, the person or persons responsible for each objective, the deadline for completion of each objective, dollars allocated to each objective (if applicable), and a comments section for notes. Objectives should be well-defined, specific, measurable, and time limited. Reference is often made to SMAART goals, meaning your objectives should be specific, measurable, aggressive, achievable, results-oriented, and time-bound.

The third mistake to avoid in relation to strategic planning is not following up on or monitoring the final strategic plan. Once the strategic planning session is over, a Strategic Planning Monitoring Committee, consisting of both staff and board members, should be developed to finalize the strategic plan. Once the final plan is approved by the board, the Committee should remain intact to monitor the strategic plan on a regular and ongoing basis. At the very least, the committee should meet monthly or every other month. This committee should also assess the progress of each goal and objective. If a goal or objective needs to be modified or deleted, or a new goal or objective needs to be added, the committee should discuss these matters and make a recommendation to the full board of directors. This committee should also be responsible for communicating the plan's progress to all stakeholders, internal and external.

In summary, to avoid the three most common mistakes individuals and organizations make in relation to strategic planning, it is recommended that you take the time to adequately prepare for the strategic planning session, ensure that the planning session is organized and properly managed, and develop a strategic planning monitoring committee to monitor the final strategic plan on a regular and ongoing basis. If you can avoid these three mistakes, you are well on your way to developing a solid strategic plan that meets the needs of your stakeholders. You will also ensure that your strategic plan is regularly monitored and not neglected, resulting in your organization continually moving forward in the right direction.

Copyright 2010 © Sharon L. Mikrut, All rights reserved.

Author's Bio: 

If you want to make positive changes in your professional life, and create the job or career you desire and deserve, then working with Executive & Life Coach, Sharon L. Mikrut, is the solution. Although her specialty is in partnering with nonprofit executive directors and managers to maximize their resources in a competitive environment, she is passionate about working with all individuals committed to personal and/or professional growth. Visit her website (, Nonprofit Professionals blog (, or Empowerment blog ( and sign up for her free nonprofit or life coaching newsletter.