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Strategic Planning

·       Create the vision

·       Define the mission

·       Identify the requirements

·       Prioritize the effort

·       Do the work

·       Track the progress

The term “strategic planning” has been so over-used and misused that its simple, common sense meaning has been lost. Concurrently, strategic plans and strategic planning are primarily seen as being most appropriate for large businesses and complex organizations. This is, indeed, unfortunate since the six steps listed above are there for everyone who wants to succeed. This includes individuals and groups, small and large businesses, and every organization no matter how complex or simple. The fact is this. The success potential of any human endeavor increases in direct proportion to the quality of the strategic plan associated with it.

For example, consider any child protection agency, large or small. Is a vision of safe children, stable families, and a supportive community necessary for agency success? It assuredly is, even if the best that can be done today is to keep some children safe, help some families become more stable, and encourage parts of the community to be more supportive of its children and families. Without a vision of a better world for children, there is little point to the work of the agency.

The agency cannot do it all, cannot single-handedly realize the vision. Even so, it can contribute to the outcome. If it tries to do everything, it will fail. Only if the agency limits its role and clearly defines its mission can it succeed.

What will it take? The requirements for success must certainly be identified. The agency cannot do everything at once. Its efforts and use of resources must be prioritized. What must be done before what? What has to be done today and what can wait until tomorrow? What is the agency’s strategy for success?

With the agreed-to strategy in hand, doing the work is obviously necessary but is not enough. There has to be a way of tracking progress. Are the planned outcomes being realized? Is the agency moving toward or away from success?

Can your agency get along without strategic planning and a strategic plan? Quite simply, “Yes.” Child protection agencies are very busy and do good work, with or without a strategic plan. However, for agencies that are not committed to strategic planning, three of the six steps listed above are usually missing. They competently identify the requirements as defined by law and administrative rule, prioritize the effort, and do the work. Missing are a shared vision of the best outcomes for the community’s children and families, a well-defined mission directing the agency’s role in achieving those outcomes, and valid strategies to track the progress toward realizing the vision. The focus is on process, not on outcomes for children and families.

There are many effective ways to incorporate the six strategic planning steps into your agency’s operations. The key to success is being sure that all six steps receive concentrated attention and become integral elements in your ongoing efforts. The approach presented here provides a well-tested framework for successfully and continuously moving your agency, large or small, toward excellence. PCSAO has used this approach to facilitate the development of strategic plans in more than half of Ohio’s counties, with the goal of transforming how local agencies do business. This approach was first developed by William Passmore and subsequently refined by Mark Hartford and the staff of the Institute for Human Services (IHS), headquartered in Columbus, Ohio.

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