Let’s Play 20 Questions to a Solid Strategic Plan

by Dan Hutson on November 11, 2009

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photo by mykl roventine

It should be obvious to anyone with half a brain that every nonprofit organization that hopes to accomplish anything meaningful needs a strategic plan. Unfortunately, planning (as opposed to reacting) seems to be anathema in many organizations.

I know all the excuses for not having a plan. We’re too busy doing the work. We know what we’re doing. We can’t afford to hire someone to help us with this right now. Hell, I’ve used some of these excuses myself.

Planning is scary and intimidating for some. Others take the cynic’s view after seeing plan after plan developed to sit on a shelf gathering dust. But the simple fact is this: Without a deep understanding of who you are, what you want to be and how to get there, you won’t make a real difference out there.

I get that planning is hard. So let’s not plan. How about a game of 20 Questions instead? Gather up your team and pose the following questions to them.  Everyone plays, everyone participates.

Q1: How would you describe your organization?

Q2: What do you do?

Q3: Who do you serve?

Q4: Who should you serve that you’re not currently serving?

Q5: What should you maybe stop doing?

Q6: Why should I care about what you do?

Q7: If you disappeared tomorrow, what difference would it make?

Q8: Where would you like to be as an organization in five to 10 years?

Q9: Who else is doing what you do?

Q10: How do you do it better?

Q11: How do they do it better?

Q12: Of everything you do, what do you do best?

Q13: Of everything you do, what are you doing that no one else does?

Q14: What threatens your ability to do what you do?

Q15: Where are your greatest opportunities to make a difference?

Q16: What resources do you have that make you good at what you do?

Q17: What do you need to do it better?

Q18: What would you need to take advantage of your opportunities?

Q19: How do you measure success?

Q20: Now that you know the answers to Q1-19, what’s your next step?

Once you have all your answers, come back together a week later to refine and clarify. By the end of this process you may not have complete agreement, but you should at least have clarity.

If you hired me to help you draft a communications plan and the first thing you handed me were the answers to these questions, I’d kiss you full on the lips. It would make my job immeasurably easier. Yours too, I’ll bet.