Presented by the Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies.


Ruth Knight

Hello everybody, thank you very much for joining our webinar today.

We're just going to give it one more minute and then we're going to start this webinar, but thank you very much for joining us. We know that we have people from all over Australia, but we also have international guests sitting in on the webinar as well, so we're very privileged to have you.

Also some of you will be watching the recording of the webinar and you're also - it's great to have you part of this as well, even if you couldn’t actually make it today but listening to the recording. So thank you very much to you all for having such an interest, I suppose, in this topic.

And when we had Denise come over from America, she arrived yesterday into the land of ours over here in Australia and it was a privilege and a great opportunity I supposed to hear from Denise and get her insights into some of the research that she's been doing and how it might implement or how we can implement some of the findings.

So I just wanted to start off I think by just introducing myself. My name is Ruth

Knight and I'm from the Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Non-Profit Studies here at QUT, and I'm going to be your host today. The centre - if you're not familiar with the centre - we're a teaching and research centre at QUT dedicated to helping the non-profit sector achieve social impact, so we do a lot of work around helping non-profits, individuals and organisations build their capacity, and learn from research.

So this is an ideal opportunity - listening in to some research that's been done in the US, and then learning a little bit about what research we're going to do on this topic here in Australia.

I'd like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land where QUT now stands and pay respects to their elders past present and emerging, and acknowledge the important role that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to play within the QUT community. We've put on this webinar because we live in a very uncertain world. It's quite volatile, complex, and of course in this sector it's very fast changing. And we felt this webinar was really important for people to hear about the latest research around how and why strategic planning is important. And of course what the research is telling us about how to make it more effective.

We need to make sure that everything that we're doing, our time, and our resources are spent on things that are really helping us make the bigger difference - so today you're going to hear from a couple of guest speakers. And I'm going to introduce you to those in a moment. Our guest speakers are just going to let us know a little bit about why strategic planning is essential to your organisation's success.

So - key steps to devise an effective strategic plan and what culture helps you to make decisions, and possibly some tools as well. We're going to share some tools and to engage your stakeholders in the planning process. I also have in the room Dr Craig Furneaux and Associate Professor Wendy Scaife who are also sitting here and are going to join the conversation and be part of a panel at the end when we kind of open up to your questions, and have a bit of a discussion about what we've talked about today.

So if you'd like to ask a question please look at the bottom of your screen and you'll see a little box with a Q in it, and underneath it, that is where you put your questions - and we can see those questions as we go through the webinar, so if you have any questions at any time please just put those questions in and then we’ll answer those questions straight away if they're relevant, or we'll leave them for the end.

Then we'll have some questions for discussion at the end so hopefully you can see that Q and A little box at the bottom of the screen, and look, at any time even after the webinar or if you're watching the recording as well you can always send us in some questions and would be happy to help point you in the right direction.

Yes I think without further ado we'll make a start - I'll introduce our guest speakers so Denise, yes, Denise McNerney. We're very privileged to have you here today Denise. Denise is the CEO of iBossWell Inc - she's an author, leadership and strategy consultant working principally in the US, with government and non-profit organisations. She's published and presented extensively and most recently with the association of strategic planning, of which we're very honoured to partner with you today Denise. Denise also chairs the Australian Association for Strategic Planning - that can be a bit of a tongue twister - Centre for Excellence in Non-profit Strategy.

So really this is a topic obviously they're very interested in. And today Denise is going to share some of the insights gained from the research that she spearheaded with some other universities in the US about successful practices in strategic planning and management. Now I’d also like to welcome Dr Lewe Atkinson who works with the Haines Centre for Strategic Management - thank you also for your contribution today Lewe and for actually helping us to put on this webinar. Lewe is from a global team of strategic management consultants facilitators and trainers who apply system thinking principles to business sustainability.

And Lewe is supporting a CPNS plan and implementing the Australian research that we're doing here this year at our non-profit strategic planning, so welcome to you both and thank you so much for your time and sharing us your expert advice about how to use strategic planning effectively. I think I'll hand it over to Denise - we'd love to hear what you've got to say.

Denise McNerney

Great thank you Ruth. I'm very excited to be here and I'm going to start with just a little infomercial here on the Association for Strategic Planning because I am here with that hat on. I'm also the incoming president for their board so I'm excited to talk about this non-profit organisation that is a global organisation, and we felt our mission is all about helping, as I put it in my own words, raise the bar on the quality of strategic thinking planning in action.

So strategic plan development execution and figuring out how to take organisations to that next place on the continuum of excellence. So it's very exciting to be representing ASP here, and ASP also is the only certification program offering credentials globally as a non-profit organisation in both strategic planning and management, so I'm not going to go into that, but just want folks to be aware of that and also put an invite out.

We have an annual international conference every year - this year it happens to be in the US and Denver, Colorado this May. So you can go on to our web site and check that out. And we would love to get some more participants coming this year. We're talking a lot about collaborative efforts and I'll be interested in learning more - I didn't get to ask my Australian partners here yet about how much of big a deal community collaborations are in the non-profit sector here.

They're giving to be a huge opportunity in the US and even though some of it's been going on for quite some time it's a big deal. I mean if we're talking in the non-profit sector trying to affect social change and help major social problems, and get better moving the needle it - not to sound cliché - but it does take a village to move the needle. So those community collaborations and opportunities and how to do that better is huge and I think we can actually happily adapt and adopt some of the things we've learned from this research into the collaborative efforts to make those better. So the conference in Denver is all about that, not just the non-profit sector.

But there is a nice non-profit trap that's going to be going on.

Ruth Knight

All righty I'll take over from here Denise to give you our voice a little bit of a rest. Denise has had a long trip and of course has got a bit of an allergy in the throat so we'll give her a rest in between so she can take some water. What I'd like to emphasize is what Ruth and the team asks us to make sure we touched on. As we work our way through these results we want to tell you why strategic planning is essential to your not-for-profit organisations success, key steps to advise, devise an effective strategic plan - we will talk about what culture helps you make better decisions, and provide you with the opportunity to download and share some tools that we'll talk about as we work our way through the findings of the research that's going to enable you to engage your stakeholders in the strategic planning process.

What we thought we'd do is do a bit of a tag team effort between myself and Denise to give you a feel for the scope and scale of the not-for-profit sector in the US relative to Australia. So first of first of all in terms of economic value the US is about 1.8 trillion dollars in revenues. And the non-profit sector each year, you know, straight out 143 billion dollars. Now there's always a dispute between British and American billions but I'm not across which one of that there is.

The intention here is just to give you a little feel for the scale. Differences in domestic product is about 5.3 per cent in the US, 4.1 per cent in Australia, and in the US about 9.2 per cent of all wages and salaries. So it's a very - you know - it's a chunk of the business in the US. We have about 1.2 billion employees, we've got about 1.5 million organisations that are non-profits in Australia going from the 2010 Productivity Commission work.

They identified 600,000 not-for-profit entities but only around about 60,000 were what they called ‘economically significant’. Diversity wise there's quite a lot of data under that particular heading, but in summary the sorts of organisations and the services provided in the US the same as in Australia and proportions of the different types are really quite similar as well.

So we'll just go down to allow Denise to talk about the actual sample that was part of this study and how it compares to the overall population of non-profits in the USA

Denise McNerney

Yeah one thing I will mention - there's a little bit of information. We ran the original survey back in 2012 and had about half as many respondents as we did this time around, and in 2012 the proportion of respondents was just a perfect correlation with the industry. In 2018 when we ran it again there's a slight over representation of arts, culture and humanities – environmental, as you can see, in a slight under representation of a few of the other elements of the sector.

And overall there's a slight higher representation of larger organisations in this as well, so there's all sorts of things we can rationalize around that. But I think what we do see - what was interesting in 2012 - we did some further analysis on the size matter and we found in 2012 - and some things that did matter - but in many things like approaches practices, whose involved things that we're going to be talking about today - it didn't really matter.

We haven't studied that yet in 2018 - this data, there is so much data from the survey. It's a very in-depth survey and there's a lot yet to be mined, as we say, from the data. So you were just scratching the surface today. All right the big question is - why we did this research initially. Is the strategic planning that we're doing - is that worth using? Are there practices that more successful non-profit organisations follow that less successful organisations don't do, both in plan preparation, development, and implementation? And if so what are those practices?

I mean ideally ASP would like to have some high-level guidelines that we could share with the industry, because as you know there are so many people out there that think they know how to do strategic planning and do it. And there's also a lot of people out there that have a very bad taste in their mouth from strategic planning, and I would say this data is pretty compelling. It's not the concept of strategic planning that doesn't work in a non-profit sector - it's how it's done and how it's approached in execution that can make or break the success of the process. So our intention is certainly to raise the bar with the quality of outcomes from the planning effort

Ruth Knight

I would actually agree with you that that's a very similar context here in Australia, you know, a lot of people with different views about strategic planning. Some are having very good experiences, some having very bad experiences, some thinking it needs to look like this, and the other organisations think it looks like this - so yes a wide variety of views about whether it works and whether you should even do it. So these are great questions to start exploring

Denise McNerney

Absolutely. So who responded to the 2018 survey? We put this out to a number of non-profits. There's an organisation in the US that tracks all the non-profits, and we actually bought a mailing list from them that represented the sector size type and all that. And we ended up with 1200 responses - of those responses almost 1000 of them had a current strategic plan and of those who didn't there is a large chunk that said they were either in the process of creating it, or just hadn't gotten around to it yet and planned to do it. But their research in the analysis after the demographics and a couple of other things, but what we're going to focus on today is with those 976 organisations and their practices, 62 per cent were CEOs of the organisation.

And here's the sizing - 70 per cent have budgets of $500,000 or more, and 48 per cent had budgets of over a million and a disproportional representation. Not outrageously disproportional but somewhat disproportional because there's so many very small non-profits, and I'm sure that's probably true here as well. And so lots of people in our (inaudible) started foundation with something tragic. Unfortunately mistakes happen, and big causes, you know heart-stirring.

So anyway I'm interesting to see what we learned from these more successful organisations. Might be one twist –

Ruth Knight

These organisations simply wanted to help you with your research and I would actually say there is no incentives. The only incentive was, you can get the results - yeah great.

Denise McNerney

Exactly. So pretty impressive to get 1000 people, you know, responding. We were really delighted, yes, because there had been no large-scale data collection. Right I mean there's all this anecdotal information and anything for those of us, and I'm sure true for most people if not everyone on the call, is that a lot of the information here is like ‘well duh we knew that right’. What's compelling about this is we actually now have statistical evidence that these are good practices, and in a world that's getting more and more driven by numbers and statistical significance, we're pretty excited about that.

We see this. And there are some things we learnt that there weren't statistical differences and that's good to know too. And you need to do a little bit more digging into that with further analysis, but I'm going to point out a few of those today as well, so a couple - this is from the 2012 if you see at the top of this slide - a couple of the compelling findings from that is that highly successful organisations have a culture of planning that involves a commitment and a discipline that the less successful organisations don't have.

Now what was really interesting, and part of this was by asking the question right, what this is really driven by? What would drive strategic planning in the organisations? And in 2012 we found the vast majority of the high success organisations was just a routine process, whereas the less successful organisations it was more kind of a reactionary. Like if a funder asked for it or if they were in crisis right. Interesting. In 2018 there were more of even the lesser successful organisations.

It's claimed it was a routine practice in their organisation. So many are highly successful but was a lot more than 2012 which is kind of interesting.

Right - it's woven into the fabric of their behaviour on their practices, exactly. And the strategic planning and management practices that successful organisations use are linked to organisational success and we documented that further here in the 2018 research. So some high-level compelling findings.

Dr Lewe Atkinson

So to give Denise's voice a rest for a moment I just wanted to provide you with some context for some of the tools that we'll share with you further into the presentation that align with the best practices that that have been identified in the survey outcomes. And so just a bit of context for the approach that the Hayne Centre for Strategic Management uses. And it's all around this notion of a systems thinking approach - the work that we do with clients is based on a five-step ABC model phase, where we ask people to think about the question - what is our desired outcome? And what surface purpose does that serve?

That's what we call the number one systems thinking question. As well of course then we move people through to Phase B, in which is how would we know when we get there? Another really important strategic question - and of course that relates to bringing measures right into the forefront of the planning process because we're asking people to try to articulate what evidence they see. If they did achieve that particular outcome and serve the purpose that they're aspiring to, and of course the (inaudible) is about the current state - where are we now.

And then we've got the implementation phase, Phase D - which is closing the gap between where we are now and where we want to be into the future. So closing the gap between A and C, and of course operating within an environment you're always asking yourself the question - what is changing in my external environment into the future that's going to impact our ability to achieve those desired outcomes?

So if I can then expand that to what we talked about when we talk about strategic planning. With clients we talk about the installation of a strategic management system. And this is where the idea of culture and strategic thinking and strategic management starts to come into play. So our objective when we work with clients is to build capacity and capability within their organisation to manage strategically on the basis of the strategic management system.

You can see in the diagram there we've just exploded out from that 5 phase process, 10 steps in what we call the strategic management process. And there's a variety of entry points that we that we work with clients. In one of the areas is what we call the plan and environmental scanning is a one place that we enter into this process for clients. Another phase is what we call current state assessment, and of course the good old SWOT – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats is a core component of current case state assessment and another place we often enter into the 10-step process.

The client sees annual strategic review. The most important thing that we emphasize, there's actually two important things we emphasize for clients when we're working through this, is that the sequence is really important. You can start anywhere you like but you've got to keep on moving in sequence because the step before feeds forward the information you need in two subsequent steps, and so going in a clockwise direction around that process is really critical. That's one of the first step, first important points.

The second important point is ours is a very participative process and a really important component of that is what we call cascading the plan and the measures down through the organisation as well.

So I'll just stop there because that was just an important framing for the subsequent tools that we're going to share and the lenders can ask them and just reiterate in.

Ruth Knight

So stakeholder involvement - this is not about just doing it in a couple of hours. This is about looking at each stage and which stakeholders need to be involved at different stages of course.

Dr Lewe Atkinson

It's the antithesis of the weekend retreat where the CEO and a couple of managers go away and come back with tablets from the top of the mountain and say this is the way it's going to be.

This as you say Ruth, it's a very participative process with external stakeholders, internal stakeholders, and at different levels within the organisation that we're working with, as well it's very deliberate process you know.

Denise McNerney

It's interesting when you're working with such a huge body of information here things come to mind. I woke up at one o'clock this morning, ‘Oh I should add a slide on this there.

So I hope my partner Lewe doesn't walk out of the room when I say - what we wanted to do is weave in to the presentation throughout, some examples of approaches that are very much in alignment with the findings of the research. I do want to give a caveat though, they probably should add this before we publish the PowerPoint, that ASP is not committing to any particular approach through this research yet because, as a matter of fact, what we found is that there are a number of approaches that can be helpful and there's no one silver bullet approach - whether it be Haynes Managed Scorecard.

We actually didn't ask about Haynes, but you know different things, so what's good about this is that it is general enough, yet specific enough step-by-step, that's very much in alignment with the research findings. So I'm very comfortable having it in here and I think it's great. So we wanted to give people hands-on opportunities.

And if I could just emphasize that we're totally comfortable in where ASP is in terms of being agnostic on the methodology because we actually believe in the findings of the research and what we offered when we're talking to people about the different steps in our 10-step process there's methodologies, for example, around measurements that you can switch in and out of that step. 

All you need is to make sure you set yourself up to measure whatever the desired outcome you're trying to achieve - the means by which you go about doing that measurement, you know, there's multiple ways to do this, is really a model and a method, but there’s many models linear with slightly more complex elements. And see if they should go the simple step process – yeah, so as a model animated - yeah in doing they notice the system's thinking-based.

I like how comprehensive it is. So just a quick acknowledgement - the 2018 research partners in the US - Regis University in Denver, Dr. Crystal Evans, University of Arkansas, and Margaret Reid - who until just recently was a chair of the Department of Political Science there, and then myself representing ASP. So thanks to them, and they're still working diligently on publications and more mining of the data.

So just a quick background, the survey in 2018 is organized and five sections, of course, demographics - the respondents and then this capacity score. I'm going to talk about that more in a minute, but that was a whole section because we - this was how we wanted to measure and do a comparison between highly successful - I'm doing air quotes here - around successful organisations versus less successful organisations.

So there was a whole section of questions to measure that, then we broke it out into the three basic elements of strategic planning with preparation practices, plan development practices, and then of course, plan implementation practices. So let me talk a little bit about this study.

We could have a whole webinar on this - I'm going to give a quick and dirty on this, and if anyone is interested in more detail we're happy to share, but we felt that given the objectives of this research was to really find what practices might be more successful, if there are practices that are more successful, we figured we wanted to define success by the final outcome. And that we felt the best indicator was how successful the non-profit organisation was.

Bottom line now in the US, defining success in the non-profit sector is very, you know, still up in the air - how do you really define success? We know the fellow at Jim Collins who did good to great and all that research. He actually has done some in the non-profit sector too but there's still debate over what makes a successful organisation and no real tools out there to measure what we did find.

And so back in 2012 we just asked people to self-rate success which is interesting. We asked those same questions again this time and compared it to this capacity score instrument. We found that had been validated - that if you get into the details, the measures that it's asking about really do tie into what most people agree anecdotally are what makes for successful non-profit organisation. So we actually included those questions, and it's a series of dozens and more questions into that second part of the survey. It made the survey a very robust survey taking probably 20 to 30 minutes to complete, and so the fact that we had over a thousand surveys – well, almost a thousand with the full survey completion, is pretty remarkable to me.

We've got the reference for the cap score if you want to go to the study to look at that. I wanted to let you know that it's really important to get that.

Ruth Knight

I think that's terribly important because as you say, how can we measure success if you don't have some sort of measurement? I understand that that's a great topic for us Australia yeah. yeah well and

Denise McNerney

It’s interesting you know. I mentioned in the 2012 we asked a more just subjective and it was a question something to the affect of - do you feel like your organisation is on a path to be viable five years from now? And you know, a few other questions like that, and asking those same questions again - we did - I don't have it in here, but we did compare the responses between the organisations on the subjective versus the core questions and those highly successful organisations had a high correlation between how they rated themselves subjectively as well as more objective.

Whereas interestingly enough the lower success organisations on the cap scores actually slightly over inflated their self-perception on the subject (inaudible), so that was kind of interesting.

Overestimated their ability is a great way to put that. This based on the cap score.

Dr Lewe Atkinson

When you look at the paper that's related to cap score you'll notice that the criteria that they use for assessing high capacity organisations based on a series of three or four questions from some work McKinsey have done in the past. And so when we talk about strategic management systems enabling cultures to make better decisions, what we're really talking about if it's well and effectively implemented - we're trying to achieve three goals. First goal is to achieve clarity of purpose and direction; the second is to ensure successful transformation from where you are now to where you want to be in the future - and of course that will always be something you've got to be conscious of with respect to the changing environment, eco system within which you're operating. And of course, enabling yourselves to do that sustaining high performance over the long term.

So those three goals are the goals of implementation of strategic management systems. In terms of culture to support those, we have three key premises. Planning and change are the primary job of leadership - really you can't outsource planning and change, it's the leaders job to ensure that that happens.

People support what the help create, so that's that highly participative approach we were describing earlier. And the third and probably most crucial premise is focus on your customer, whoever that may be. But the - that's the purpose that you're serving by achieving whatever outcome you're trying to achieve.

Denise McNerney

All right we're starting to get into some of the details here again at the highest level, why strategic planning is essential to your organisation. Does it help predict a higher capacity - and statistically absolutely it does. 90 per cent of the top organisations reported that yes it did help predict then it was helpful to their overall organisational success, whereas 64 per cent of the bottom organisations said yes.

Now that's somewhat of a subjective question, but let's look at going - to what extent has it impacted your overall success. Breaking that down a little bit. This is broken up by high, medium and low capacity, and then also I'm focusing on the low capacity orgs versus the high capacity orgs.

Hope you guys can see the cursor on the screen remotely - not sure if you can, so those are applying no impact or minimal impact in the high capacity organisations - look  - it's almost nothing – 3.4 per cent versus 17, almost 18 per cent. And if you add some to it we're over 50 per cent right. And then looking at a large to critical success, 73 per cent - and the high-impact orgs said that strategic planning had that kind of impact. Whereas on less than half reported high to critical success, and the low impact organisations – look, capacity, very compelling. Just for making the case for a strategic plan.

Ruth Knight

I would perhaps wonder then if that is an indicative of their culture, because they didn't bury that strategic planning throughout everything they're doing, so they're realizing how critical it is.

Denise McNerney

Well I think that's what we see. And you know, it all feeds into that overall organisational success right. And that's why it was so critical to somehow be able to measure success or technical capacity in this case.

So another busy slide, but just kind of, interest to all a non-profit folks on the call - which of the following does your non-profit organisation have? It was different statistically between the high - you have almost 90 per cent - where it’s about 70 per cent have it in the low, and this is with the 1200 plus respondents.

As you can see this was everybody, and so the chunk of folks that didn't have one across all were the ones that then got weeded out for the further statistical analysis on practices. For those interested, Wendy for example, you can't see very well here - but there's just a slightly lower number that have development and fundraising plans. And then you know you're going down - it's interesting to see the difference so I just threw that in as an FYI. 

Ruth Knight

I mean it’s interesting and I think that we've done a little bit of research rather on that as well - that wouldn't be tremendously different, but of course some model organisations are fundraising organisations. They might get there.

Denise McNerney

In the US it's also interesting. Lots of fundraising folks will call the fundraising plan a strategic plan - you know, maybe it's strategic fundraising.

I think what we find is a more comprehensive approach to strategic planning. Chloe's examples are showing all of this, all these different elements of plans, that may have their own spin-off, but if they're not somehow at least at a high level incorporated into the overall strategic plan. It's like you're missing the boat on your strategic plan, because it should deal with - fundraising should deal with marketing and staff development and all those elements so.

Ruth Knight

So Denise can - I don't think - we have a question from Keith that says does capacity score mean capabilities score?

Denise McNerney

Yeah that's a really good question and this - that the only instrument we could find is this desperate capacity. So technically from a statistical analysis you can't draw a correlation or a cause-and-effect or, you know, it doesn't mean the same.

So at this point no. But it was the best we could find, right. It's the best that's available out there so um - and if you look at the details of it, you'll still probably feel that it's very similar, but from a statistical purity perspective we can't say that.

Okay but I think if you look at the study details you'll feel pretty confident that it's measuring that. Okay hopefully that answers this question - good question I appreciate that, because that's, you know, it's kind of fundamental to this research and comparing right.

So what are the key steps to devise an effective strategic plan – first, what do you do to prepare for the planning process – often times called environmental scan, environmental assessment. All sorts of terminology out there in the sector around this. What was the most interesting - we threw out all sorts of options for them to mark here on this question and the top three that we found is very much looking externally. And that was really one of the most compelling things in this research.

For the external environment - the preparation researching best practices and benchmarks that are out there and like sectors; conducting needs assessments across whatever your mission is - what is the need out there; and reviewing industry trends, which is a lot like best practices in some case, but it goes beyond that - it's a whole foresight concept of looking, you know, where is our particular market going right. What's happening?

I remember working with an organisation that worked on emergency sheltering - short term sheltering for homeless folks. And they had - most of their funding came from a federal government hub in the US, and all of a sudden they were shifting their focus all from short-term to long-term permanent housing for that sector - for the homeless. And I mean that's a huge disruption right, and so looking at those trends and having your finger on the pulse of what's going on there, like, that's in your face. That's funding.

But some are a little bit greater than that or softer than that. And the other thing that I think was compelling about these findings is that lots of times in my experience as a consultant, I have found that this is the piece that lots of organisations cut short in the strategic planning process. What if you're working with outside people?

And often times it's very helpful to have here because you may not have the internal capacity to do this external look - you don't have the resources to do it - so I mean our audience is broader than just the organisation's here, we're also looking to the funders. And for those organisations, hopefully you appreciate this comment, and I'll continue to drive the stone for the funders, is that please fund this.

If you’re funding strategic planning, understand that this is a really significantly important element of the process - to look beyond the navel-gazing, saying yes.

Ruth Knight

We'd also agree, Denise, that as a Research Centre, you know, we're constantly trying to look at the trends and what we need to research. So that we can inform the sector because without that research one of these non-profit organisations may not be able to do some really good reviews - so critically important that we're doing the research. Yes some people are looking at what's going on in the industry - yeah perfect.

Denise McNerney

And there are multiple ways to do this right. And it's hard when you're doing a survey like this to design it perfectly, because another question we asked these specific - you know - these are check off boxes. If you did that we also asked about SWOTs. An interesting SWOT rated much lower, but if you really think about a SWOT, two elements of it - the opportunities and threats particularly should be very externally facing right.

And again lots of people just sit around the table in the boardroom and do, you know, throw up a flip chart and do a SWOT analysis without really looking at what the data is and to me that's the most compelling. A consumer - I can't emphasize that enough.

Dr Lewe Atkinson

To me again this is the first of the takeaway tools if you like that we’ll share, and it's related to the very first box in the 10-step process: prepare to begin, that I shared with you before. And we call it plan-to-plan Smart Start. And what we're - what is there at that hot link, when you get the handout you can click on that, will be a detailed article about what you need to do when you're doing a plan-to-plan strategic plan. And it's all about the process of putting together the preparations for a well-developed strategic planning process.

So an overview - a calendar of scheduled meetings and events. It’s not a one off event. This is an ongoing process and it needs to be allocated for in your board calendar, and in your executive team meeting program. And then of course you've got to cascade it down into the other parts of the organisation. You need really clear on critical issues and desired outcomes and of course the purpose you serve.

So continuously checking in on whether your vision mission is still aligned with what you're trying to achieve. Who should be part of the planning process as well - it's a really important decision. Strategic information be gathered - so this really comes to the point that Denise has just made around customer stakeholder information. It needs to be gathered to inform and drive your plan. And of course stakeholder analysis - a really crucial part of the front-end of the planning process as well.

The next slide talks about what we like to emphasize when we're talking to leaders, and the premise that we shared earlier about planning and change are the primary responsibilities of leaders. They've actually got two jobs - serving today's business, and at the same time for siding. And to use the term that Denise just used for siding, what the future is going to be and being top of the key trends and issues in your ecosystem - that's going to influence the way your organisation works into the future.

The tool that we use, but there's a whole range of different environmental scanning tools - you name it there's all different sorts of acronyms we like to use as sceptics. And the reason why we use sceptic is we say to people that sceptics are your best friends - so when you're out there talking to stakeholders don't do confirmation seeking bias, and talk to people who love you.

It's always very important to speak to people who may not think you're doing exactly the right thing and getting that feedback. And you can see also it's really important to focus on customers and the organisation. Remember what we said - one of their core premises was the work on our outcomes to serve the customer.

Ruth Knight

And I think that it's very easy to forget the important role that our customers and beneficiaries play within the planning process. We're big proponents here of human centred design - where we can actually start the customer and talk with them about what their needs are and how we're meeting those needs. 

So I like that - keeping them very (inaudible) means that we shouldn't just be going off and thinking or assuming that we know what our beneficiaries need.

Denise McNerney

Yes there was a great question so before we move on I think when do you want to read that question.

Ruth Knight

Sure, so thank you Marcus for this great question - it relates to your 10-step process. Lewe just to warn you. I'm wondering if our ability to envision an ideal future depends first on our knowledge of the facts - so current state measurement analysis. Would this not remove any bias we might have, or bring into our envisioning of an ideal future. If we envision the ideal future first then perceived to measurement, we run the risk of fudging the data to make it fit our vision of the future. A question in relation to the systems thinking model for strategic change management. Thanks guys, Marcus says.

Denise McNerney

So I'll let Lewe a dress that fits into your system but I will say - Marcus you just reinforced the findings of this data right. That pre-planning work is critical. Now Marcus if you know a way to totally get bias out of the system and the people around the table, I would love to you know that - but you're absolutely right in the more data you can bring to the table the more likely it is at least minimize bias.

So doing that external look and whatever internal data is important to bring to the table - that's part of it - but the external data and what's you know, out there, potentially crystal balling as analytically as you can, is critical before you start that visioning process.

Ruth Knight

And maybe that's also why everybody around the table - whoever those stakeholders are, need to have an element strategic thinking - easy to know what strategic thinking feels like and looks like so they're not just, yes, ticking things off, but they're actually thinking about what people are saying, and what the data is telling us. 

Dr Lewe Atkinson

There's a slide coming up Marcus that will sort of go to what both Ruth and Denise have said too about being strategic thinking first before then you reflect on your current state, because being clear about where you want to head is crucial in terms of being able to identify what you need to do, to close the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. So we really encourage our people we work with to focus on future state first before you invest on the effort that you will need, to invest in getting clarity around your current state.

Denise McNerney

All right I'm going to keep this moving. So this really reinforces some of the previous slides and conversation about who's involved, who's not involved in the effort. What we learned and this is who's really what the low capacity organisations did - generally they involve the smaller variety of stakeholders in their planned development process, and did high capacity both in the preparation and getting input from stakeholders - to getting involved in the actual planned development process within their organisation. And you'll see also the second point here, they were much less likely to consistently involve the board and staff together in the plan development process.

I just have to throw this anecdote in - I was just working last week with an organisation that is a professional organisation and in the musical instrument industry - talking about disruption with electronics and this particular acoustic instrument. But they are a classic example of how not to do it - this is the first time in 50 some-odd years, if they’re actually approaching planning and their organisational structure because we're actually - they have board terms for one year - how on earth can you maintain consistency.

We came up with ideas at the table and at first they - the board runs this organisation even though they have a dozen staff members - and they, the board say, well I really want staff at the table. Holy-moly you have to have staff at the table. So anyway I'm hoping we not only created a great plan for them, but we begin - we're actually changing bylaws and doing all sorts of things to get them positioned to be successful in the execution and consistency at the table, and I'm sure we could have another webinar around that right. Between board and staff and how they do all this. But important to know who's been involved.

Ruth Knight

We've got another great question from Carolyn, thanks Carolyn, on the slide about who's involved in low capacity organisations. I see the comment about less involvement of staff and board - then who is doing the strategic planning work? Is it the CEO alone?

Denise McNerney

Well it wasn't the CEO alone. I have a detailed (inaudible) on that that you'll get in the handout from this, but it's senior management often times, and possibly the next tier down with minimal board involvement. Board is more of a talk show right as opposed to really engaging, and we know board or volunteer positions - they have their day jobs so they can't be at the table the whole time, but there are great approaches where you can find a good balance where everyone feels engaged and supremely engaged.

So good question and you'll see more details on that, but now, not CEO alone - although I've seen that happen too and I think that's a formula for disaster, so.

Dr Lewe Atkinson

Here’s a couple more takeaway tools if you choose to do that - what I like to do when we're doing surveys at different stakeholder groups in the organisation's, we'll work with. I love this cartoon because it emphasizes the fact that someone can be in exactly the same circumstance but have a completely different view of the situation from their perspective.

And so again, there's a hot link just below that, there, that's called the parallel involvement process. You might recall in the middle of the of the five phase, 10-step model as it seems, called the parallel involvement process. There’s more detail there in an article that talks about that, and then just the other diagram on the slide really emphasizes that parallel involvement process is all about cascading down through the organisation - the higher-level vision mission and values in two different components of the organisation to ensure that you get effective implementation, ownership for implementation, but also the best possible decisions made by others in the organisation as well. 

Here's another takeaway, and it talks to the point about the role of the board versus the role of the CEO versus the role of the rest of the organisation in the strategic planning process. Everyone has a role - everyone gets a chance to make a contribution. But just really importantly, the blue section is about scanning the external environment in partnership with the leaders, confirming vision mission and desired outcomes and key measures of  success – they’re are all determined at the beginning of the process and then cascade down through the organisation with the support of the CEO and the rest of the organisation. The two hot buttons there link to article on the governance approach to successful implementation of strategic planning, and also down the bottom we did a webinar - one of the ASP webinars last year, on defining the board's role in strategic planning which obviously expands on the article and the diagram.

Denise McNerney

Okay we just had a great question come through which is a perfect segue to this last slide here - about how do you weave strategic planning into the culture of an organisation. So I'll address that as I go through this.

Our researcher shows at high capacity organisations, they report plan progress and achievements more frequently than low - and what I'll say more frequently, how that's operationally defined is two to four times a year.

So part of the way to really embed strategic planning and weave it into the culture of the organisation it is - one is getting people involved throughout the process throughout your organisation, all right. Doing a staff internal survey that gets all your staff as well as external stakeholders is a great way to start. Then somewhere fairly early on, you can't have if you're a large organisation - you can't have all the staff at the table.

You can come up with the draft outline. You can never be sensitive at the table. Then we can take that out - there's ways to take it out. We blow it up, add a blueprint shop on big - you know - the draft outline on big flip checks, and let people go around and write notes and you know. And then bring it to them before we finalize. And then ideally - we didn't ask this in the survey - but just a quick tip that probably most of you do, is also we make connection to individual performance goals into - back to the strategic plan.

I always use the example - a receptionist may have at her or his job description to answer the phone within three rings on average - well that won't be in the strategic plan, but what that connects to in the strategic plan is a goal for exemplary customer service. And in getting that - connecting the dots from what you do every day somehow to the strategic plan - is a huge element working it into the organisational culture as well as an embedded routine process of progress reporting and assessment, and sitting down with your team with a plan in hand two to four times a year.

Looking at your part of the plan and how are you doing that conversation – it’s fantastic to do that so, well, we didn't ask about what we're seeing in the industry, or we didn't include that in here. I quite honestly can't remember but three years is pretty much the most typical now of organisations, and when I think of strategic planning and a lot of what we've learned is that it's not just the high-level - as I say - new shiny things you want to do, right.

It really should cover everything that you're doing including the shiny new things, but there should be an element of operational or implementation planning that cascades from that, and that operational piece a couple bullet points down may. And that's part of the ongoing process to weave it into your culture, that as you go through these routine quarterly or biannually reviews, you also recognize areas that need to change and be updated and that brings the opportunity for agile strategy as we talk about it. It may drive at the operational level or it may drive at the higher-level strategic level, that changes need to be made to the planner. 

So but four, three is probably a really rough – is that your experience as well?

Ruth Knight

It is, I think the most important thing is to understand this link to outcome measurements. So we talk a lot in the sector about outcome management at the moment, and that is what we're doing regularly to make sure, as you say, that we're monitoring whether we are achieving our strategic plan. So if you're - if you're not achieving your outcomes or if you don't know that, you know, regularly then how do you know you don't to get to the end of three years and go, you know. So it's about that regular monitoring and making sure that so you get the end of the three years and go ‘we've done everything that we can to achieve that’.

Denise McNerney

Absolutely, and the other thing to recognise is that in the non-profit sector often times three years is not enough time to really measure a needle moving, often times, impact - outcome and impact at the highest level may take longer. So there's nothing wrong with having those same measures continue over time. And you know, at the next tier down what are some of the evidence-based practices and outputs, or lower level outcomes that are helping make progress towards.

Ruth Knight

And we have another great question from Keith - did the research clarify the exchange of external resource or facilitation that was used to develop or assist the strategic planning? Did they have the internal skills or resources to do strategic plan?

Denise McNerney

Yeah great question - we actually asked some questions about use of consultants and we  have data on that. We have not fully minded that yet so stay tuned. We will have more info on that down the road.

Ruth Knight

And we're certainly going to be asking in our survey as well. Now Denise I’m very aware of the time – we’ve got about one to two minutes and I know that you did have some more slides - maybe you could pick just one as a final slide.

Denise McNerney

As a final slide and a call to action is what I'd like to say is that - wherever you are in the practice of strategic planning, a practitioner, a consultant, a funder, a senior manager - that what what I would encourage you to do is let the learnings gleaned from this research help derive a solid strategic planning development process and ongoing implementation process, because we know if it’s done well and right it works.

And it doesn't take tens of thousands of dollars in every case with an external person to always do that. Although I'm saying that anecdotally and casually (inaudible) sizing on that one so for funders so one thing I like to say and I'll stop at this is that for those that are - bless you - funding capacity building and strategic planning, I would challenge you to possibly weave into the requirements and their reporting on their grant reports - that they report on their pre-planning practices and their ongoing implementation practices. And you require that in the reporting processes.

Ruth Knight

Yeah it's fantastic well look I think we could probably have another hour really just talking about this - this is such interesting information - and if you could just turn it to the next slide Lewe for me, because I wanted to just let people know before they go is that we are going to be doing some of this research here in Australia in 2019. Because we want to see if we get some of the same results here in Australia, and what also we can learn from that.

So we're going to be very shortly the next month or so sending out an invitation for organisations to get involved in our research, and we're going to be asking very similar questions. So who's doing strategic planning, what's working, what are the challenges, what can organisations do to improve their learning practices - and then of course when we get the results and we analyse that information we will be sharing that with everybody in the sector. So we're hoping that a lot of people are going to get behind our research, so if you want to get involved, or if you want to ask some questions, or you just want some support around these issues, please contact us or get involved with what we're doing here. 

And just to remind you we do have courses here at the centre - we're always willing to (inaudible) information for people who would like to learn more about these subjects - and strategic planning is one of them, so if you've thought about studying - not sure what to do, or have a way to go - please give us a call we'll give you some advice. But thank you very much to Denise and Lewe, whose given us their expert opinions today - great discussion.

I'm sure we're going to continue it over lunch now - because research, and obviously we want funders to fund more research, so that we can have this information to give to non-profit organisations and the sector so that we do our work better, and we create a bigger impact in the community.

So we've run out of time today for anymore questions but as I said at the beginning, you're welcome to email us at any time and we'll attempt to answer your question. We welcome you to give us a call or an email and just - thank you again for everybody coming online, and listening in - I hope that's been helpful and valuable. And thank you very much.

Hope to see you again our next webinar – we will put you in touch with all the mix webinars that we are doing throughout 2019.

Thank you.

Share or Print