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“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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How it often feels to write a strategic plan.

There are lots of reasons to dislike strategic planning and plans. It is easy for them to be unnecessarily extravagant, noncomprehensive, and impractical. If the strategic plan fails it’s usually because the goals were misdirected, the plan meandered too far into the future, or the necessary resources and known challenges weren’t correctly identified.

I collect plans that seem to offer counterpoints to the above (admittedly I am not as diligent in finding out how well those plans worked).

Recently I ran across the Morris Arboretum’s “Strategic Plan 2012-2016 … A Vision for the Future”

Among the more noteworthy points are:

  • It’s for only four years. This is both well within the reach of the current staff and does not burden future staff with a plan that doesn’t fit future realities.
  • While understated, they clearly say the economic downturn affected them.
  • They are looking for unrestricted, as well as restricted, funds.
  • They recognize that some staff will be retiring in the near future and they need a succession plan to address those changes.
  • Every project has a monetary figure associated with it, but they don’t have a summary page of all the expenses. No one person or foundation is going to fund the whole thing anyway, so why unnecessarily overwhelm the conversation?
  • It’s short (9 pages) and heavily illustrated. They even included an image of a grounds staffer with a snowblower (recognizing all the departments and kinds of work).
  • They mentioned the need to mitigate and prevent damage from increasingly extreme weather patterns.

No one strategic plan is perfect, but the Arboretum’s strikes me as one of the more thoughtful ones.

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