Online Course - Module #10: Strategic Planning In Community-Based LBS Agencies

This module was developed during phase 2 of a research and development project of Community Literacy of Ontario, funded by the Trillium Foundation.

During Phase 1, CLO engaged in a comprehensive strategic planning process as part of their commitment to continued improvement and in Phase 2, they are bringing what they learned from the process to the field for professional development on carrying out strategic planning on behalf of an agency. 

The principles and ideas from today are transferable for strategic planning in any business or area of life, so even if you are not the one responsible for big-picture, coordinated planning and services at your agency, I think you will still find this workshop meaningful and useful. 

Basically, the concept of planning is a simple one. It’s about looking at where you are now, where you want to be in the future and deciding how you will move from here to there.

Practitioners in LBS do this all the time. After a while, it becomes intuitive. They are constantly looking for ways to be more efficient and to get better results; They often pause, think ahead and then make decisions to ensure things go smoothly or to make sure pitfalls are avoided.

Strategic planning, however, formalizes the process, intensifies the scrutiny somewhat and is more disciplined in following particular steps and documenting findings.

It is a disciplined effort that results in fundamental decisions about what the organization will do

It employs concepts, procedures and tools that help managers with important decision-making for the future.

There are good reasons why companies and organizations engage in Strategic Planning.

There are changing demands in our work. Expectations in what we are to achieve seem to evolve and change continually. It means what we planned some time ago may no longer fit for the outcomes we now have to meet.

There is greater stress being placed on efficiency – getting more accomplished in the time we have – getting better at streamlining our pursuits and focusing our energies.

There are changes in our working arrangements. Partnerships are more prevalent and expected. Collaborative work is being encouraged so there is less overlap, less duplication of effort and service, and therefore less waste of resources.

We now belong to Employment Ontario – a new integrated employment training and services initiative

We work more closely with other sectors on projects that before we used to do separately

We have received training that included encouragement to partner with local community organizations and services to meet common objectives

We are expected to do more with less – and this would be true in all businesses – not just literacy. It means not only do we continue to lobby for more funding we have to get more creative in how we attract funds and we have to get smarter with how we use what we have in order to make ends meet.

These all are good reasons for engaging in strategic planning for the future.

It is not the time to start a strategic planning process when the roof has fallen in and you’re in crisis.  You cannot realistically look into the future and plan long-term when next month is in jeopardy. When the program is in crisis, you need immediate intervention, radical surgery and maybe some space and time to heal. 

Strategic planning is not the solution for conflict. Some people think if they ignore a problem and concentrate on something else, the problem will go away. Has anyone found that works as an effective strategy? It doesn’t really work with agencies either.  

Of course if you don’t have the necessary resources – time, money, or energy to engage in strategic planning then it’s not a good idea to start it.  

It’s also not a good idea if you know you have no intention of following through with implementation – for whatever reason.

There are basically 5 elements of strategic planning: 

  • Assessment – gathering data
  • Evaluation – making a judgment on what the evidence shows you
  • Decision-making – selecting the most important things to focus on
  • Implementation plan – prioritizing the action items and setting timelines
  • Follow-up or reassessment – monitoring your implementation and checking on how well the plan is working out

Finally – while not part of the strategic planning process itself, communication of your SP to key stakeholders is very important.