Powerful Planning for Development Part 3:

When the Unexpected Derails our Plans

The irony of having written a series of articles on “planning” to be released during this time of seismic change is not lost on me. We are living through something unprecedented. Something that can’t be planned for, and something that has the power to seriously impact our work, our income and our personal lives.

The 4 Fundamentals of Planning

In many ways, there isn’t a better time to focus on fundamentals

  1. Your mission/vision – your WHY
  2. A realistic understanding of your current situation<
  3. Execution(keep reading below
  4. And evolution (next week’s article)

When we lose track of fundamentals, we go astray.

Powerful Planning: Giving plans life.

Plans sometimes create their own inertia. How many times have you paid for analysis or plans that sit in a binder on your shelf – a memorial to your effort, and too often a marker of either ultimate irrelevance (since you’re not able for whatever reason to implement) or an inability to move your organization to new levels of performance. Early in my career, I worked on plans that routinely exceeded 500 pages – thorough, even great work in many respects, but too often nothing more than expensive doorstop in the office of an overworked and busy executive.

Behavioral scientists tell us our best strategic thinking takes place when we have time and space to think broadly about a problem or situation. Our most narrow thinking takes place when we are under stress or pressure. That’s one reason we need to pay more attention to the plans we have devised in a planning process. The kind of thinking we are using in a good planning process will yield the best long-term results.

But giving plans life is tough.

Why? Lots of reasons. Sometimes we are tired from the planning, we have spent our energy on working through the learning and potential, our plan has too many ideas, or requires funding we don’t have, we don’t have buy in to the plan and have to work to build it before we can execute. Or the “urgent” overtakes the “important” (7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey) in our daily work. But most often it’s because organizational systems (the way things have always been done) are stronger than we think.

So, Key to your Next Plan: Execute.

You’ve spent a lot of intellectual capital on your plan – let’s put it to use!

Where to start:

  • What are the plan’s functional priorities – what organizational structure needs to be in place? (Staffing/team structure, Technology, Workflow/Project Management)
  • Have you built a way to prioritize your plan’s execution?
  • Do you have a step by step way to advance your plan’s objectives?
  • Do you have a way to assess your progress? Are you assessing it regularly?

If things aren’t moving forward:

  • Does your plan have a champion throughout the execution chain?
  • What might be holding things up?
  • Have you factored in the systems and processes your organization has been built around?
  • Do these processes and systems serve the plan well?
  • What else is needed?
  • Is there another capacity we need to build or inform? (Build a constituent feedback system, etc.?)
  • Are you getting bogged down, maybe distracted by process?
  • What are you learning about your plan? Maybe something (a strategy, a message or offer) needs to be revisited…how will you know?

The most important question: Are you working on bringing your plan to life every day? 

Something to think about: A plan without execution is something else: it’s a dream. 

A Thought from Pamela:

My purpose in this series of articles is not to give you templated answers. That may be frustrating, I know.

But think about it, if I come to you with fully baked answers, I’m not likely to find the best solution for you.

The best plans ALWAYS start with asking better questions – I can best serve you by helping you ask better questions.

The articles in this series are designed to equip you with tools to ask good questions as you build and review your annual fundraising plan. – Pamela McCann