Strategic planning can be an insightful, generative, and clarifying process that propels an organization forward. Or, it can be an obligatory chore that is more formulaic than revelatory.
We want the former for you, not the latter. A strategic plan sitting on a shelf is useful to no one.
So, where to begin?
We offer the wisdom of Peter F. Drucker and his “Five Most Important Questions,” which was re-released in 2015 with essays from Jim Collins, Philip Kotler, Frances Hesselbein, and many other thought leaders.
The Five Most Important Questions are:
- What is Our Mission?
- Who is Our Customer?
- What Does the Customer Value?
- What Are Our Results?
- What is Our Plan?
While the questions may seem simple at first glance, they are complex and intentionally designed to spur dialogue and debate.
In the first question, we bring vision and values into the mission conversation because of the power that comes from understanding why the organization exists, the change it seeks to impact, and the truths it holds dear. We have to start there, otherwise, nothing else matters.
The customer conversation sparked by the second question is often fascinating because Drucker compels us to focus rather than casually pleasing everyone. Getting nonprofit leaders and board members to determine a primary customer versus supporting customers is well worth the effort.
While all five are essential, number three is truly fascinating because it implores us to check our assumptions at the door and find out what exactly our customers need from us. If we don’t know, then we can’t deliver. And, if we are not on target with our delivery, how will the organization ever succeed with growth plans or fundraising goals?
Number four is the opportunity to define results and paint a picture of what success looks like. We recently asked an organization what success looks like and their response was one of surprise — they had never considered it before. What a missed opportunity! How can an organization achieve future state if there is not a shared understanding of success?
The last one, the plan, is where too many organizations start. They begin with plan because that seems like the most efficient route — determine the goals, objectives, and tactics for the next three to five years; checklist, done. In the Drucker model, he forces us to make decisions on goals only after reaching agreement on the first four questions.
The wisdom of Peter Drucker is timeless, not because he offers a “how-to” manual, rather, he invites us to pause, reflect, think, and debate prior to executing the myriad of responsibilities held by leaders.
The authors at Harvard Business Review wrote an article a decade ago titled, “Why Read Peter Drucker?” The article is well-worth the read, and we offer this bit of insight from it on why Drucker matters:
“The answer is simple: Drucker’s real contribution to managerial understanding lies not so much in the cash value of his ideas as in the rigorous activity of mind by which they are formulated.”
Let us know if Drucker’s enduring questions have helped your organization move to next.
Article by: Kerri Laubenthal Mollard, Founder & CEO