Does Your Organization Have A Strategy?
Is your organization the world’s best-kept secret? Are you having a hard time recruiting new members, even though you’re in a large city? Do you feel like you’re just spinning your wheels, and never able to get ahead?
The reason is probably that you don’t know where you’re going.
Without a clear direction, any organization will just go in circles. If, on the other hand, you have a clear strategy, specific goals, and an action plan, you’ll be surprised at how much your organization can do. I’d like to present a framework that I used successfully in my leadership roles, including as a Civil Air Patrol Cadet Commander, and as an advisor of several student organizations.
Painting the Big Picture: Setting Your Strategy
This process is a cycle which should be repeated yearly. A good time to start setting a direction for your organization in in early January. Don’t do this by yourself; a big reason that this process works is that you get buy-in from everyone on your staff. So, what you need to do is set up a dedicated meeting, inviting all of your staff, whose sole purpose is to develop a strategy for the upcoming year.
Step One: Identify Main Areas Of Focus
Once you have everyone together, come up with a list of the main areas you’d like to focus on for the next year. In my Civil Air Patrol squadron, this is what the list usually looked like:
- Cadet Advancement
- Emergency Services
- Aerospace Education
Try to keep your list to between three and ten items. Remember, these are big-picture things. The details will be fleshed out later.
Step Two: Make Someone Personally Responsible For Each Area
Ideally, you would have already done this. Hopefully, your organization is not one in which a few key people are doing everything, but instead has a culture of delegating responsibilities and holding people personally accountable. If you’re not in the habit of doing this already, now is a good time to start.
Again, the second step is to choose someone to be personally responsible for each of the major areas of focus that you’ve identified. Don’t move on until you’ve done this.
Step Three: Set Long Term Goals For Each Area Of Focus
In each of the above areas, figure out where you want to be one year from now. Make sure that these goals are specific, measurable, actionable, and realistic. Here’s what our goals for the Recruiting area usually looked like for us:
- We will participate in two local parades.
- We will have one parent information night in the spring.
- We will have an open house in the fall.
- We will run a recruiting drive in the fall.
- Each cadet will recruit one new member in the next year.
- We will participate in three community service events this year.
Note that each goal is realistic and has a specific number attached to it. At then end of the year, you’ll be able to ask, “Did we meet this goal?”, and you’ll have a clear yes or no answer.
Step Four: Inspect What You Expect
The most important thing to remember is to not try and accomplish all of these goals yourself, but instead to empower your staff to achieve them for you. Every time your staff meets (whether your meetings weekly or monthly), you’re going to ask each person you put in charge of the major areas of focus how they’re progressing on their goals. You are putting it on them to make sure they get done.
Of course, delegating responsibility is an art in itself, which I won’t dive into here. But the key is to follow up every time you meet so that these goals stay in the forefront of everyone’s mind throughout the year.
Step Five: Controlling
Each quarter, you’re going to get your entire staff together again. At the meeting, you’ll take a step back and perform a complete review of all of your goals. Every three months, you should have accomplished another 25% of the things on your list. If you find that not to be the case at your quarterly meeting, you need to deploy more resources toward meeting the goals you’ve fallen behind on. This could mean adding more people to certain projects, increasing the budget of others, or coming up with other creative solutions.
It’s important that you do both step four and step five. Step four ensures that you’re always moving forward. But if you don’t do a quarterly sanity check, you could be moving forward, but not fast enough, and not even realize it.
Step Six: End Of Year Debriefing
At your fourth quarterly meeting of the year, take a look back. Figure out which goals you met and which ones you didn’t. For the goals you succeeded on, describe why you were successful. For the ones you missed, find out what went wrong.
Going through the debriefing process will give you and your staff some valuable insights on what goals you should be setting for next year.
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