Strategic Planning: One Size Does Not Fit All


Living in the Midwest, it can get cold in the winter months. Real cold. One of the essential clothing items are gloves. Not just any glove, but a great glove. A glove should fit snugly but comfortably, without being too tight or too loose. I often go for gloves that are well insulated, yet stylish, and comfortable to wear. Ultimately, the best glove will depend on your individual needs and preferences.

Your organization’s strategy work needs to fit like a great glove.

Strategic planning is not a one size fits all process. The right choice is dependent on the outcomes your organization is seeking and must be customized to meet your needs and goals.

There are several types of planning processes:

  1. Vision planning sets a vision for a longer period of time. A strategic plan brings your vision to life in incremental steps or plans. One of the outcomes of vision planning is a vision statement. Vision statements are short: no more than 15 to 20 words long—the shorter the better! Vision statements must be easy to read, short, and impactful, presenting a clear vision of what the organization wants to achieve and where they want to be in the next 10-15 years.
    Process time: Board retreat, one planning session

  2. Strategic planning is the process of setting goals and developing strategies to achieve them. Shifting away from five-year plans towards three-year plans allows organizations to adapt to rapidly-changing environments. Planning in real-time keeps the plan fresh and relevant and off the shelf.
    Process time: 4-5 planning meetings, board retreat, 1-2 post planning sessions

  3. Strategy sprint is a process you can use when a strategic plan needs to be refreshed, identifying what needs to be carried forward and integrating new opportunities or threats. A strategy sprint can also be used if you have a current plan, but you need to tackle one specific strategic question.
    Process time: 2-3 leadership meetings, board retreat

  4. Operational planning is the process of developing short-term plans, generally on an annual basis, to achieve the goals set in the strategic plan. This comes after a strategic plan has been finalized. It involves developing specific action steps, accountability, budget implications, and timelines. These types of plans drives the organization’s budget and allocation of resources.
    Process time: 1-2 leadership meetings, staff retreat

  5. Scenario planning is the process of developing plans to deal with unexpected events. It requires identifying potential risks and developing plans to mitigate them. Being in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world, scenario planning helps organizations to think about these uncertainties and to develop strategies for responding to them.
    Process time: 1-2 board meetings


How do you know which process will be the best fit? Consider the following questions as a board and staff leadership team:

  • Why do we need to undertake a planning process? 

  • How well did we execute our last strategic plan?

  • Who should be involved in the planning process? Are those involved representative of who you serve and do they bring diverse perspectives to the table?

  • What is the current state (culture, financial, reputation) of our organization?

  • When might be the best time for our organization to do planning? Are there issues or threats that need to be addressed first before entering a planning process?

  • Is our organization, specifically the board and staff leadership, ready for change?


By answering these questions before starting, organizations can better choose the type of planning process that will help them achieve their most pressing goals. They can also ensure that their plan is aligned with their mission and values, and is responsive to the needs of their key partners and participants.


No matter the size or type of organization, planning is essential for success. By taking the time to consider your needs, you’ll find the process that fits your needs like a glove. Please contact me to discuss what type of planning process might be right for you. 

Posted by Richard Clegg
Richard Clegg

Written by Richard Clegg

Richard Clegg serves as a strategic consultant and thinking partner for a wide range of nonprofit organizations. His 40+ years of experience working in various program, leadership, and executive positions gives him unique insight into the challenges and complexities of managing mission-based organizations. Richard holds an Advanced Consultant certification with BoardSource. Before coming to DBD Group, Richard consulted with YMCAs and other nonprofit community-based organizations with operating revenues from $1M to $80M in the areas of strategy development, strategic planning, board development and governance, executive transition, and organizational capacity building.

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