To Plan or Not To Plan… Strategic Planning as an Organizational Tool

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Strategic planning has been a big part of how for profit and nonprofit organizations manage the ongoing changes in their environment and communities. In NYC we are constantly dealing with gentrification, which causes our agencies to shift in scope of work, grant writing and services/products. 

 

In multiservice agencies we depend on program directors to create plans that support the ongoing operations short-term, based on the general vision and mission.  Theses planning sessions often happen within each division.  These sessions are effective because it provides real-time information of what is taking place in that particular community. 

However, it is the long-term planning and strategizing that does not happen effectively and timely.    Program directors report information and changes and this information at times sits for long periods of time due to lack of human capital.  This is particularly true with nonprofit organizations as they are stretched very thinly and often one person manages the workload of at least two people.  There is a real disconnect with senior leadership and those on the program side.  Lack of communication is the number issues I have experienced when planning for the overall organization and the programs that carry out the mission and vision.  “As more organizational functions develop, each with its own hierarchy, they become increasingly distant from one another. They develop subunits orientations that cause communication problems” (Jones, 2011, pg. 151).  I belief that there are genuine efforts in wanting to plan and address the ever-changing environment, but with programs that are in different locations it rests in leadership to create an internal infrastructure that facilitates and promotes effective communication top-down and bottom-up. 

With the rapid change in technology, culture, and environments, leaders and organizational managers are looking for ways to innovate and solve problems in creative ways and with the use of new ideas.  However, Murthy (1996) argues that some of this new ideas and strategies only address the problems short-term and do not delivery solutions as many expect.  Murthy (1996), states that these strategies are best served in organizations that are stable and well-balanced.    

“Before starting the discussion on any modelling exercise, we should realize that the information age (characteristic 9) implies a high-technology world with a high rate of obsolescence. It, then, is not change but rate of change that becomes important. In such a world, clutching to an idea or a vision becomes much more important than delineating the details of a strategic plan” (Murthy, 1996, pg. 461).

 Surprising this statement Murthy (1996), makes regarding strategic planning and its ineffectiveness for long-term planning.  It argues that in a rapid pace environment it is nearly impossible to plan with any level of certainty.  Thus, it is suggested that synthesizing the information and creating a vision is best suited to provide the guidance and direction the organization needs. Management paradigm shifts are really about the use of information to inform future decisions and direction.  There is this unrealistic belief that new ideas and innovation are the solution to the many organizational problems out there and they fall short in the delivery of long-term solutions, if used without consideration of the status quo and past organizational experiences that have been effective.    So, plan but make sure its meaningful to the current situation, changes within the organization, and external environment.    

    

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