Strategic Planning: What is the “Why?”

Posted By Laurie Richards on January 24, 2017 in Leadership & Management

Imagine you’re planning a vacation.  What questions do you need to answer before going?  Where are we going? What should we pack? What resources will we need? What resources do we already have? Need to purchase? What will it cost? What’s our allocated budget? (Do the two match?!)  Who’s going? How long will it take to get there? How long are we staying?

Before you can answer any of these, you need to know the “Why?”  Why are you going? Are you looking for an adventure? An opportunity to disconnect from your electronics? Wanting to get away from work? Family? Just need to sleep in and wake up without an alarm clock?  Wanting to reignite your relationship? Escaping the winter blues?

Your “Why?” will drive your vacation satisfaction. If you need a break from the winter blues, an Aspen ski trip is probably not your best choice. Need to relax? A trip up and down Mount Fuji won’t fit the bill (trust me!)

Identifying the core “Why?” will ensure that you choose the right spot, the right people, and  the right resources. It will ensure you and your fellow travelers will be able to make decisions to keep you on track to a harmonious vacation (if that’s what you’re looking for!)

And, perhaps most importantly, will ensure you return satisfied, refreshed, energized, and ready to tackle the challenges of your life and business.

The same is true for your business or organization. Do you know where you or your organization is going? When you’ll get there? What you can expect when you get there? Do you know the “Why?”  Why do you do what you do? Why did you start? Why do you continue?

This weekend, I facilitated a strategic planning session with a national organization — a common event during the last and first quarters of each year.  Some sessions are highly formal complete with a review of the Mission and Vision, a celebration of the goals reached, an updated of the goals in progress, and a sometimes multi-day cram session of goal setting and planning.

This group was different. A series of  interviews with leadership and a board-wide survey in the weeks prior to the session revealed the group is comfortable with the Mission, and the goals are aligned with the on-target Mission.  They’re meeting their goals. They have some specific new goals they’d like to meet. Yes, there Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

But, this group spent the greatest effort on the “Why?”

Why did they join years ago?

Why did they stay?

Why is the organization important?

Why is it important to ensure the continuation of the organization?

Why would a young prospect want to join? Participate? Lead?

Why would that prospect’s manager/company pay for the membership?

Why would a sponsor want to participate?

Why would a prospect choose this organization over another?

Here are five things the group learned:

1. What got them in the door isn’t what kept them. Individuals change. Members’/Customers’ needs change over time.  Are you taking care of younger members, mid-career professionals, and experienced members?

2. A member’s manager’s “Why?” is likely different from the member’s “Why?” Is the person who signs the check getting value, too?  If your member goes back to the office and talks about how great the food was at the meeting, a manager might re-think renewing next year’s membership. If, however, the member demonstrates what was learned and how it can be used, the manager will likely support the investment.

3. What satisfied members/customers 20 years ago may not satisfy them today. Today’s member/customer wants mobile access, an online presence, in person experiences, and options. Are you providing these?

4. What motivates you to join may not be what someone else is looking for. You want a large yard. I don’t want the nuisance of maintenance.  You want good schools. I don’t have children. It’s important to learn what the prospect wants and highlight that benefit (even if it’s not what you want).

5. When the “Why?” is clear, the work is worth it, and the reward is great.

Now is a great time to ask yourselves these same questions. Whether you’re recruiting members for your organization or offering a product/service to customers.  What’s your “Why?” What’s theirs?






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