STRATEGIC PLANNING 1. 1 Excerpt from unpublished TANNA Branch Manual, as an activity under the Tanzania Nursing Initiative

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1 STRATEGIC PLANNING 1 Strategic planning is the core of the work of an organization whether at the branch or national level. Without a strategic framework you don t know where you are going or why you are going there. Introduction Without a plan and specific goals in mind, everything is haphazard. It is like driving without knowing the destination or route - in which case you may wind up where you want to be but having wasted time and resources in getting there. To work effectively we use both strategic (longer term) and shorter term planning. The latter is usually in the form of annual plans (12 months corresponding to a financial year) and action plans for specific issues. Strategic planning provides the general direction over the medium to long term while annual and action plans provide the details over shorter periods. All are needed. All are the responsibility of leadership. Action Plans are tools that outline the activities to reach an objective, the date each activity needs to be completed by and who is responsible to see that it is done. They help in implementing your plan and, taken together, constitute all or a major part of your annual plan. See Annex A for a sample Action Plan. You will come across a lot of different terms when talking or reading about Strategic Planning. To assist you, a glossary is included in Annex A. The important thing to remember is that you can use terms the way you want, but their meaning needs to be clear to all involved. Similarly, you will see great variety in the time span of Strategic Plans. Some cover as few as three years while others cover up to ten or more. They also vary in level of detail, length and format. Some may contain the first year operational plan. The key is to develop something that works for you; that meets your needs and is easy to use. What is Strategic planning? Strategic planning is a process for developing strategies to meet specific purposes. It is much like the nursing process. It involves assessing the situation, determining goals and objectives, formulating strategies to meet the goals, implementing these, monitoring progress and revising the strategy as needed. 1 Excerpt from unpublished TANNA Branch Manual, as an activity under the Tanzania Nursing Initiative and developed by the Tanzania National Nurses Association (TANNA) and Judith Oulton, an independent consultant, with support from the US President s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), USAID/Tanzania, and the American International Health Alliance s HIV/AIDS Twinning Center program, which is funded by the US Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). 1

2 Where and How to Begin The starting point for any journey is in knowing where you are and where you want to be. This means agreeing your mission, vision and values as well as undertaking an assessment of where you as a Branch are now. The mission statement explains why the Branch exists while the vision statement describes where you want to be as a Branch. The vision is long term and briefly states what, for whom and why. Because you are a subset of a larger organization, if you have a separate mission and vision statement for the Branch these must not be in conflict with the TANNA ones; they must complement them. Values are the principles that guide the organization and describe how an organization wants to act to achieve its mission. They guide behavior, shape the attitudes and character of an organization, and ultimately influence most decisions. They are the traits that Board and staff reflect in carrying out the work. Shared values are the foundation of our vision and a key building block for policy development. Together with vision, values generate strategic action. 2 TANNA Mission: To advocate for nurses, promote excellence in nursing and influence health policy TANNA Vision: A vibrant, reputable association representing all professional nurses, advancing their welfare and promoting excellence in nursing and healthcare TANNA Values: Trust Excellence Accountability Honesty Unity Transparency Partnership Collective Ownership Effectiveness 2 ICN Board of Directors Manual,

3 Elements of the Strategic Planning Process Mission,Vision,Values Environmental Scanning Goals, Objectives, Key Results Areas Strategies and Action Plans Strategy Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Note: The formal presentation of the Strategic Plan often also contains a short profile and history of the organization, along with a discussion of key issues and resource development goals and objectives. As with all planning, developing and implementing the Strategic Plan calls for communication and coordination. Successful planning rests in large part on the buy in of the key stakeholders; that is, the degree to which they feel involved and that it addresses their concerns. A transparent process will be: Inclusive: While the planning work may be largely done by a designated Planning Committee or the Executive, it is important that all members and other key stakeholders (e.g. Regional Nurse Advisor) be invited to offer their opinions and ideas. However, the decision must rest with the Branch leadership. Open: As in any venture where membership is involved and trust and support are important, it is essential to keep all stakeholders informed about the process and results. Be sure to acknowledge participation and any insights you gained. Accountable: As Branch leaders, you are accountable to your members and rely on credibility in your relationships with them and other stakeholders. Therefore it is important that you not only communicate with them, but that you follow through effectively with the planning process. 3 3 Sam Frank. Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Organizations. 3

4 You may use a number of ways to gain information for the planning process a survey of members on key points, including factors (internal and external) that the Branch needs to consider; holding focus groups on key aspects of the process; holding a workshop with invited individuals who have the knowledge and skills you feel are needed to achieve the desired results; a meeting of Branch members; or an open meeting with non-members also involved. Some organizations also invite written comments; if you use this approach you need to have clear criteria for what is to be addressed. You will be looking for answers to the questions: a. Where are we now? b. Where do we want to be? c. How should we get there? Whatever you select as mechanisms, ensure that as many stakeholders as possible are involved in the information gathering and planning processes. You may need different people with different knowledge and skills at different points and this should be clear. Be sure to explain how the Strategic Plan will benefit members and other stakeholders. Environmental Scanning One area where a wide range of inputs is particularly useful is environmental scanning. This is a process of gathering and analyzing information and is useful in both strategic and short term planning. It involves monitoring the internal and external environments (those within the Branch and those outside it) and helps to identify threats and opportunities. In considering the external environment you can select categories that you feel are most useful to you. For example, the International Council of Nurses routinely scans for trends and issues related to society, health, nursing, association management and nursing associations and every few years asks external stakeholders about their perceptions of their own organization and environment. A well-known generic framework for external scanning is known as PEST as it looks at trends and issues from the context of political, economic, social and technological factors. Political factors would include things like government policies affecting health care and nursing that are important to the Branch in the way the policies affect patients, the public or nursing and health care personnel. Examples of economic issues would be inflation or budget cuts that affect hospitals, while social issues could involve violence, disease, etc. and technology might relate to new cell phone technology, new equipment and drugs, and so on. Analyzing the environment within the Branch can help identify the organization s strengths and weaknesses. A useful tool for this is a SWOT analysis which combines information from the external review (e.g. PEST) with the internal results and provides an assessment of strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities. You will see that the flip side of strength could be a weakness. A copy of the SWOT analysis carried out as part of the TNI needs assessment is included in Annex C as an example. Setting the Goals, Objectives or Key Results Areas Having assessed the situation, it is time to set the goals and objectives of the plan. Goals: these are what you want to achieve. They are often seen as broad statements of intended outcomes. Objectives: these may be seen as more specific statements of the intended outcomes. In this sense, an objective is more like a subset of a goal. However, some people will use the terms goal and 4

5 objective to mean the same thing so it is important that the definition and intent are clear. Today people often talk about SMART objectives, meaning they are: Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic Time bound Measurability is the most important consideration and, as the saying goes: The devil is in the detail. Well written objectives are clear, simply expressed and free of jargon. You can t do everything at once so you will need to prioritize the goals/objectives and spread these and the activities over a few years. One way to do this is to use a simple planning tool to show the major strategies over time. Action plans that detail each strategy can then be developed. It is also important to understand that the plan is a roadmap while it provides direction there may be more than one way to achieve the goals. The plan must be flexible and adjusted as the need arises. Once the main goals or directions are agreed it is time to develop the action plans which really become the implementation plan. Here you state in detail the specific actions to be undertaken, when, and by whom. Some action plans also state the rationale and resources needed. It is important to ensure there is someone responsible for each major area as well as for discrete actions. These may be different people and sometimes it will be a committee that is responsible for certain things. It is advisable to next take the action plans and put the actions for a single year together into a detailed annual operations plan particularly as you will need to develop an annual budget for the Strategic Plan. To be effective Strategic Plans must be regularly adjusted to today s reality. Therefore detailed annual plans cannot reasonably be prepared more than a year or 18 months in advance. Since it is based on the action plans for major activities the annual plan should include the actions, completion date and persons responsible for each action. It needs to be updated frequently and modified as the need arises. Only this way can it guide actions, keep people accountable, and facilitate regular monitoring as well as preparation of progress reports. Implementing the Strategic Plan While we have covered some of this topic already, it is helpful to re-emphasize some points covered while introducing new ones. For example, we know that a Strategic Plan is essential; however, how it is implemented is key to whether we actually succeed; and not implementing it or failing affects credibility, membership and future support. That is why constant monitoring of the Plan, especially the action plans, is so important. Equally important is communicating progress, celebrating key milestones, and adjusting the Plan as needed. Try to talk about the Plan wherever you are so you keep it in the forefront. Above all, commitment to the Plan is essential as is ensuring sufficient resources to realize it. This is an important leadership role. You will need to develop an annual budget to support the activities for each year and secure the resources needed. Three major factors in successful strategic planning and implementation are commitment, credibility, and communication. Credibility depends on five things: representative participation, adherence to 5

6 the process, transparency, ongoing communication and clear documentation. Input, feedback and understanding that this is a participatory process builds ownership and facilitates plan implementation 4. Monitoring and Evaluation Monitoring the Plan is key to effective implementation - to keeping things on track - and should be done regularly. This may be weekly or monthly in the beginning. Where targets are not met questions must be asked as to why and what to do to get back on track. If there were deviations from the Plan these need to be explained. You need to know why and with what impact. Monitoring must include review of finances and how these are deployed. If resources are not available then the Plan must be adjusted. Some annual plans include when and how activities will be evaluated. The Branch Executive Committee is responsible for monitoring progress and ensuring plans are adjusted as needed. Strategic Plans in their entirety need to be reviewed at least annually - goals, priorities, strategies and timelines need to be considered. Goals that have been met should be acknowledged and communicated - and celebrated. Evaluation is not the same as monitoring. While monitoring checks on implementation and focuses on details, evaluation looks at whether you are accomplishing what you set out to do. It can be done at certain points during the plan s life (formative evaluation) and at the end of the plan (summative evaluation). Formative evaluation tends to focus on improving the strategy and deals with efficiency and effectiveness whereas summative evaluation considers what you can learn from a completed plan. It looks more at the impact of the plan, though it may also review effectiveness. Someone once described this as the difference between a check-up and an autopsy. 5 Monitoring and evaluation can: Help you identify problems and their causes Suggest possible solutions to problems Raise questions about assumptions and strategy Push you to reflect on where you are going and how you are getting there Provide you with information and insight Encourage you to act on the information and insight. 6 Mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation need to be set up early in your planning. Going back to do it later is very difficult. Getting something wrong is not a crime - failing to learn from past mistakes because you are not monitoring and evaluating, is. 7 4 Chris Ahoy. Basics of Strategic Planning. Facilities News, September Janet Shapiro. Monitoring and Evaluation. Civicus. 6 Ibid. 7 Ibid. 6

7 Now that it is ending and a new plan is beginning Determining what you accomplished and learned is important, but so is celebrating your success. It brings a sense of closure and helps you look forward to the next planning exercise- though, ideally, you will have started the new plan before the old one comes to an end. It is not unusual to have to include unfinished business in the new plan as long as you are confident that these things can be done and the reasons for them being left do not relate to whether they are achievable. Review for your new team the benefits of strategic planning: Helping to have a current mission, vision and goals Helping to set priorities and ensure the organization is moving forward Facilitating active participation and interest by members and other stakeholders Improving efficiency, effectiveness and productivity building strength and capacity Building/increasing credibility among members and others Helping recruit new members Helping strengthen the executive team s skills Enhancing communication within the Branch and with others Building confidence and competence within the branch leadership. It is also important to appreciate what Strategic Planning is not. It is not a wish list, a report card, or a quick cure. It is not a tool to address a crisis in the organization. Avoid Strategic Planning if you think you cannot implement the plan or there is not real commitment by the leadership. But do engage if your team is committed to making a difference. End Notes Changing the Plan always make sure you add the date each time you revise the Plan and always keep old copies. Be sure you learn from each activity and make some notes of this to share with others and/or use in subsequent planning activities. Keep your mission, vision and values at the forefront of your thinking. Not every plan is a strategic one; be sure yours is. Be sure your plan is aligned with the national one for best effect. A strategic plan is a good thing, but a culture of planning is a sign of a truly healthy organization. 8 8 Sam Frank. Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Organizations. 7

8 Useful Resources Carl Richardson. Strategic Planning: Five Steps to a More Secure Future. Chris Ahoy. Basics of Strategic Planning. Facilities News, September Free Management Library Janet Shapiro. Monitoring and Evaluation. Civicus. Quick MBA. The Strategic Planning Process. Sam Frank. Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Organizations. Sample Strategic Plan: The ABC Service Agency. 8

9 Annex A: Glossary for Strategic Planning The sources for definitions relate to: (A) (B) the Chapter Author; (C) Action plan - a written statement of what has to be done, by whom, when, where and why and is the operational part of a strategic plan. (C) Efficiency - doing things right; the ability to produce a desired effect, product, etc. with a minimum of effort, expense, or waste. (A) Effectiveness - doing the right thing; capacity to produce a desired result (A) Environmental scanning - a process of collecting and analyzing information for tactical or strategic purposes. (B) Goal - a target, something you want to achieve. Goals can be broken down into further sub-goals, which are known as objectives. (C) Impact - tells you whether or not what you did made a difference to the problem situation you were trying to address. (C) Indicator - a statement, a criterion and/or measure of something that has to be done or achieved. It is related to an objective in that it shows whether the objective has been realized. (C) Long term a period of time that can range from 3-10 years. (B) Medium term a period of time usually is considered months. (B) Mission a statement of why the organization exists; its purpose; what it is there to do. (B) Monitoring systematically keeping track of activities for a certain purpose, usually through observation and/or reports. (B) Objective - a sub-set of a goal, usually one of several, and is what needs to happen in order to reach the goal. (C) Priority - something that you choose to focus on because of its importance to the organization. (B) Operating plan a detailed one year plan based on the strategic plan and which reflects costs and pertinent elements of action plans. (B) Short term a period of time, usually 3-6 months. (B) Stakeholders people or organizations with an interest in the organization and/or whom we have a relationship with or a responsibility to. (B) 9

10 Strategic Direction a short clear statement about the strategy an organization takes to achieve certain goals. (B) Strategic plan - a tool that provides guidance in meeting your identified goals. (B) Strategic planning - the process of developing strategies to reach a goal. (B) Values - the principles that guide the organization and describe how an organization wants to act to achieve its mission. (B) Vision a statement of where the organization wants to be. (B) 10

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