Why the traditional approaches to Strategic Planning don`t work and

Why the traditional approaches to
Strategic Planning don’t work and
what to do about it.
A booklet for non-profit organizations considering a more
effective way of undertaking strategic planning
By Stuart Morley MBA
Morley & Associates Inc.
Te: 1.888.687.3181 or email: stuart@morleyspeaks.com
Strategies that Work
A booklet for non-profit organizations considering a more
effective way of undertaking strategic planning
The objective of this book is to remove some of the “shock and horror” that many
organizations go through when they do strategic planning.
Even brave people will go to great lengths to
avoid participating in a strategic planning
The main reason for this aversion to strategic
planning is because they have previously
suffered through a very long process and all
they have to show for it is a thick document
packed with hundreds of initiatives that lands
up on a shelf gathering dust.
Even worse, some people have experienced
strategic planning sessions that resulted in
detailed plans that stretched on for years into
the future.
These detailed plans were then enforced
without coming up for air from time to time to see if the action steps were still
Therefore, people hate strategic planning for good reason: the process is often
costly in terms of time and energy and yet does not provide any real value.
However, the absence of a strategic plan for a non-profit is even worse.
“Hi Stuart,
Thank you for your time and as always your seminar presentations are outstanding.
The feedback I have received is great!”
Anne Lorriman
HR Director
YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka
Strategies that Work
Why traditional approaches to strategic planning don’t
work and what to do about it.
Page #
Executive overview
Common pitfalls in strategic planning
A brief history of strategic planning
The history of strategic mapping
The success of the one-page strategic plan
Benefits of strategic mapping compared to traditional approaches to strategic plans
Why most strategic planning processes fail
What most executive directors think of strategic planning
Why non-profit organizations are different
Ten tips to making your strategic planning process work
Some of the don’ts in strategic planning
How do we know if our strategic planning process is working?
Completing the strategic map - a case study
Using a retreat in the planning process
Retreat checklist
For more information on strategic planning
Stuart speaking at the
CAFÉ Symposium in
Toronto May 2006
Common pitfalls in strategic planning
The common pitfalls in strategic planning are:
1. Producing a plan that is not actually strategic. The strategic plan may
have a mission and vision statement that sounds great but unless it
addresses the key issues facing the organization it is not useful.
2. Getting caught up in the day-to-day or operational issues. Strategic
planning is designed to address the big issues of direction for the
organization and not the day-to-day issues.
3. Internal focus. Unless consideration is given to the client, members at
large or other key stakeholders, the plan
risks becoming unrealistic.
4. Trying to do it all with inside staff.
Surgeons do not operate on themselves
or their family, and lawyers maintain that,
"he who represents himself has a fool for
a client." The dynamics are the same in a
good planning process.
The most common approach is to have an
outside facilitator and outside (i.e. non
staff) board members or other outside
stakeholders attend.
5. Developing a plan that is not meaningful. Unless the board, executive
director and staff know, understand and support the plan - it won’t happen!
For it to work, the plan must be effectively communicated and ”sold” both
inside and outside the organization.
6. Developing a wish list instead of a plan. No strategy is worth much until
it's implemented. The plan needs to be translated into measurable
components and discrete individual activities. Plus there must be enough
follow-up, rewards, and consequences to put teeth into the actions.
7. Strategic planning is treated as an event. To be effective, your planning
team must treat strategic planning as a process not an event. Reporting
regularly against the plan helps participants realize when it is time to
revisit the plan. The best strategies usually evolve: they seldom just
happen over one weekend a year.
A brief history of strategic planning
The term "strategy" derives from the Greek "strategos," which means, literally,
"general of the army." Each of the ten ancient Greek tribes annually elected a
strategos to head its regiment.
At the battle of Marathon (490 BC), the strategoi
advised the political ruler as a council. They
gave "strategic" advice about managing battles
to win wars, rather than "tactical" advice about
managing troops to win battles.
In time, the job of the strategoi grew to include
civil magisterial duties as well, largely because
of their status as elected officials.
From these military roots, strategic planning has
always aimed at the "big picture." The focus is
on results or outcomes, rather than products or
Strategic planning is less concerned with how to achieve outcomes than with
defining what those outcomes should be.
Thus, strategic planning aims to exploit the new and different opportunities
of tomorrow, in contrast to long-range planning, which tries to optimize for
tomorrow the trends of today (Drucker 1980, p. 61).
Strategic planning has gone through several major changes in the last 50 years.
Long range planning in the post World War II period was popular with large
companies (such as oil companies) who needed to plan their capital needs over
20 – 50 year horizons.
Through the 1960’s, strategic planning became a standard management tool in
virtually every Fortune 500 company, and many smaller companies as well.
With the oil crisis in the early 1970’s, this kind of sudden disruption created the
need for a short term, more flexible approach to planning and the term strategic
planning as a discipline developed.
Until the mid-1980’s, strategic planning remained mostly a private sector
undertaking. Notions of customers, marketing, industry growth, market share and
risk management were foreign to the public and non-profit sector. Instead, local
governments and non-profits wrote comprehensive plans that dealt with the
efficiency of services and program plans, and were usually limited to narrow
chains of authority on the organization chart.
In the mid 1990’s the traditional approach to strategic planning came under
attack from two fronts.
Firstly, a study done in the UK around this time provided the
shocking result that 70% of strategic plans were never
implemented! CEO’s realized the need to become more
focused on results.
Secondly, the arrival of the Internet changed the way many
organizations looked at the future. To adapt, many
organizations started to focus more on the customer as the
basis for their strategic planning.
By 2002 business books (like Execution) became more
focused on getting results and less on the traditional
analysis in strategic planning.
Some organizations stopped doing strategic planning all together while others
developed scenario planning and environmental scanning tools to try and predict
the future.
“Stuart, we thoroughly enjoyed our time together at Beauchene and I think it was
unanimous that this was one of our best, it not the best, retreats. Although I …have done a
lot of strategy planning, I found your common sense and direct approach very refreshing
and effective.
Again thanks for sharing your wisdom and war stories.
Best regards
C.J. David Nettleton
President & CEO
Sertapak Group Packaging Systems
The history of strategic mapping
Stuart Morley was involved in turning around
companies in the early 1990’s and found he did not
have time to write 40-page strategic plans.
He developed a way to capture the most important
information on one page. The essence of Stuart’s
approach is for the strategic planning group to be able
to produce a strategic plan on one page in less than
one day.
Stuart found the biggest gap in the strategic planning
process was linking the vision or mission statements of
the organization to some quantifiable benchmarks of
Stuart facilitates strategic
planning retreats
Organizations often spent too much time crafting a
vision and /or mission statement and then struggling to develop action plans.
These sessions developed too many action plans and then expected the staff
and volunteers to implement them as well as do their assigned jobs. Stuart’s
process is not only about what to do but also using the strategic map to decide
what to stop doing.
As more organizations achieved significant successes using this approach,
Stuart has been asked to provide speeches, articles and now this booklet to help
organizations understand why it is worth switching to this approach from the
traditional approach to strategic planning.
More details on Stuart Morley are provided later in this document.
“I have had the pleasure of working with Stuart Morley on many occasions and have always
found Stuart to be extremely creative, very quick to identify and understand difficult
issues and, more importantly, able to find practical solutions that work. Our work together
focused largely on key strategic matters. Stuart always had effective ways to help me and
my management team to work through a variety of complex issues, identify solutions and
own the responsibility to make moves in new directions and/or implement corrective actions
on a timely basis. I have recommended him to many other organizations and would not
hesitate to do so again. He doesn't disappoint!”
Stan Thompson
Novartis Consumer Health
The success of the one page strategic plan
The strategic mapping process involves a one-page planning tool that has been
successfully used in more than 100 organizations in Canada and the USA.
It has been used by divisions of large professional firms as well as
one-person businesses. The tool is so flexible it has been
successfully used in non-profits, governments and associations. This
process works. Try it!
Stuart Morley lives in Muskoka and some of the non-profits in his
community that have successfully used his services include: the
Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, Muskoka Algonquin
Healthcare (MAHC), The Canadian Association of Family
Enterprise (CAFE), the Community YWCA of Muskoka, and
Muskoka Family Focus and Children’s Place (MFF). In Toronto he
has also used the strategic map to help organizations like The
Association of Professional Speaker (CAPS) and Financial Executives
“Morley & Associates provided a Strategic Planning workshop for our not for
profit agency. The workshop was excellent. Stuart’s knowledge, combined
with his clear and concise delivery of information, gave us a template to use
in our growth as an agency. I would highly recommend them to anybody
seeking direction in planning.”
Jennifer Purkis
Senior Manager
Muskoka Family Focus & Children's Place
Benefits of strategic mapping compared to traditional
approaches to strategic plans
A sample of a strategic map is shown below. The various elements of the
strategic map are discussed later in this document.
Some of the benefits of the one-page strategic mapping process include:
Time. Traditional strategic planning processes can take three to six months to
complete while the one-page strategic map can be completed in a day with the
strategic planning group.
Visibility. Traditional strategic plans are documents of 20 - 400 pages in length
and are often put in a bottom draw and never looked at again. The one-page
strategic map can be put on the wall by each employee’s workspace.
Trade offs. The traditional approach to strategic plans means more work for
employees in addition to their current workload. The one-page strategic map is
not only about what is to be done, but also about what employees don’t have to
do. It encourages participants to consider what they should stop doing as well as
what they should continue doing and start to do differently.
Easy to update.
A traditional strategic plan may need many drafts
before completion. Many plans get so bogged down
in the drafting that the plan is never finished. A onepage strategic map is easy to update if the situation
Results focused.
Traditional strategic plans focus on the analysis of the
market place and other factors that are important but
often don’t need to be captured in the plan.
The traditional strategic plan often does not provide a
clear linkage to the milestones or benchmarks to be
The one-page strategic map has a clear set of
benchmarks/milestones to be achieved. It is easy for
organizations to develop operating plans that are linked to the benchmarks/
milestones in the strategic map.
Stuart’s Strategic
Mapping Workshop
in Barrie
Traditional strategic plans often
have so many objectives to be
accomplished that the whole
process lacks focus. With a
strategic map there are only 16
benchmarks (half qualitative and
half quantitative) to achieve.
Stop doing.
A traditional strategic plan is
viewed as the work an organization
must take on in addition to the
current workload. The one-page plan is designed to be the only work the
organization needs to do. Anything that does not contribute towards the
benchmarks should be stopped or outsourced to someone else.
Why most strategic planning processes fail
According to recent studies most strategic planning processes fail. And why is
that? Henry Mintzberg, probably the world's leading strategic planning scholar,
and author of The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning (Free Press, 1994), says
the main reason is that traditional strategic planning
provides "the illusion of control."
What this means is that, as most people do strategic
planning the traditional way, they unwittingly build into it
assumptions and strategies over which they personally
have little or no control. "If you plan it, it will happen."
This is very seductive and difficult even for experienced
planners to avoid.
Another reason is they treat it as an annual event rather
than a process or journey that needs constant attention.
Thirdly, they make the process too long and complicated.
In this booklet we will outline both the traditional
approach and a more practical approach that is focused
on getting results.
Note: In this booklet we use the term “executive director” to describe the top staff
position in a non-profit organization. In some organizations the titles are
President, CAO, CEO, General Manager or Senior Manager.
What most executive directors think of strategic planning
The four primary characteristics of successful non-profit organizations, according
to the book Profiles of Excellence, are:
a clear, agreed-upon mission statement (or direction)
a strong, competent executive director
a dynamic board of directors
an organization-wide commitment to fundraising.
A clear direction or agreed upon mission statement is a
key factor for success in non-profit organizations yet most
executive directors don’t like strategic planning….WHY?
A study done by CompassPoint Nonprofit Services of more than 1,000 executive
directors found that executive directors thought their boards were most effective
in “mission advocacy” and personal support for the executive director and less
effective in strategic planning, fundraising, finances and community PR.
The toughest issue for executive directors is to get help with board development.
In other words, executive directors felt their jobs would be more manageable if
the governing abilities of their board improved and
strategic planning is part of that process.
Long tenured executives felt the key to success was
the constant attention to board development by both
the executive director and board members.
As strategic planning is perhaps the most important
aspect of an executive director’s job, we will devote
much of this booklet to what to do and why non
profits should do this and less on how to do
complete the strategic map. If you want to know the
mechanics of how to complete a strategic map then
email Stuart at stuart@morleyspeaks.com.
Stuart Morley is a guest
speaker to associations on
“Strategies that Work”
Why non-profit organizations are different
A CompassPoint Nonprofit Services study completed in 2001 highlighted the
profile of executive directors. Some of the key findings were:
50% of executive directors bring management experience from the forprofit sector and public sector
51% of respondents had 4 years or less in the job.
About 50% would not continue in the job after tenure
The top two reasons for taking the job were the agency’s mission and an
opportunity to give back to the community
The biggest challenges in the job are finance anxiety and fundraising
The agency’s executive directors who experience the most stress have
budgets of $500,000 to $1 million
The top three sources of training and support for executive directors is
their management teams, peer networks and workshops/ conferences
The top need in terms of “more money” was for staff salaries, benefits and
reserve funds.
There are some differences in the way non-profit organizations approach the
world compared to business corporations. Here are the nine most common
differences and how those differences impact the role of the executive director.
1. Passion for a better world
Many people join non-profit
organizations because they
have a belief, optimism and the
desire to make the world a
better place. The challenge for
the executive director and
board of directors is to make
sure the passion for a better
world does not lead to a
misallocation of resources and a lack of focus on results.
2. Conflict resolution
On a personal level, the desire for a better world can result in participants
developing a rigid view and a sense of righteousness to the extent that
they become political and confrontational. This challenges the executive
director to be aware of this dynamic and develop conflict resolution skills
to address this behaviour.
3. Atmosphere of scarcity of resources
Because non-profits have traditionally been underfinanced, this creates a
reality and a mentality of being under financed and the executive director
as well as outside advisors and consultants are often resented by staff
and board members because there is a belief that that these senior people
should be working for free.
4. Outcomes are hard to measure
Executive directors and boards need to develop plans that articulate what
success looks like and how to measure it because there is no profit
5. Policy boards
Boards of non-profits can create problems if
they try to supplant the staff running the daily
operations. Boards should create a “policy
focus” by looking at the long-term benefit.
While the staff and volunteers focus on the
day-to-day decisions. The executive director
has to make sure the board is clear which
“hat” they are wearing (e.g., board vs.
Executive directors often incorporate board
governance training or use of consultants to
help boards see the difference between
effective supervision and micromanagement.
6. Dual bottom line: financial versus vision/mission
Non-profits often have a mentality that financial success and staying true
to the vision and mission are mutually exclusive. Having a surplus at the
end of a financial year is often considered the ultimate sin. The road to the
vision may mean the non-profit needs to navigate years of surpluses as
well as years of deficits. The challenge is for the board, and the executive
director is to ensure the organization can and does hold sufficient reserves
to deal with the fluctuating demands for funds.
7. Third party fundraising
Donors may have their own agendas and try to influence the organizations
they support. The executive director has to be very strategic in her/his
actions to insure that the “tail does not wag the dog.” The executive
director needs to be clear what the “non-negotiable” elements are and be
prepared to walk from donors who cannot respect the non-negotiable
8. Mixed skill level of board and staff
Some people are kept around out of kindness, and others are appointed
for reasons other than their skill to perform their tasks. Individuals need
skills to do the work or else they will inadvertently sabotage the overall
effort. Therefore, the executive director often has to budget more time and
resources for training or more support for certain roles than in a for-profit
9. Bias towards informality, participation and consensus
The executive director has to work
toward consensus and allow more
time for consensus building than in
business environments. They also
have to have a fallback if
consensus can’t be reached. The
executive director often has to live
with decisions that contain undue
bias in order to keep things moving
along. Business people on the
board often find this approach
confusing and frustrating.
The differences that non-profits face often become most noticeable during
strategic planning sessions. Therefore when using outside advisors and
consultants, the executive director would be wise to ensure that all participants
understand the environment and how consensus is reached in the organization.
Ten tips to making your strategic planning process work
1. Be sure your organization can benefit.
The timing of a strategic planning process is important. Pick a time when
the organization has the capacity and energy to undertake the process
and is willing to follow through on the commitments.
2. Pick a process that is simple.
Strategic planning is productive when it has three elements: (1) sharing
information on what has happened (2) agreement on what direction the
participants would like to take the organization in the future and (3) a
commitment to action with milestones to measure progress.
3. Keep the strategic planning group small but have representation
from all key stakeholders.
It is a balancing act to have enough key people to ensure commitment to
the process but not so large the group cannot get through the process
quickly. Those who cannot attend the strategic planning can be asked
ahead of time to prepare materials for participants to read and digest as
well as submit ideas and concerns. In some situations it may be
appropriate to interview stakeholders before the retreat using a structured
4. Doing the homework on the issues.
For strategic planning meetings to be effective, the attendees must have
information to make sound strategic decisions. Ideally, the information
should be documented and sent to participants ahead of the meeting.
5. Integrating the planning with Board development
The planning process brings a natural, positive opportunity for board
members to be more actively involved in the organization. Some non-profit
organizations include governance training
together with strategic planning.
6. The process is as important, if not more
important than the strategic plan that is
Strategic planning is a time for thinking about the
big picture, for sharing ideas, brainstorming,
bonding, having fun and getting excited and
motivated towards a common direction and
sense of being part of something greater than any one person.
7. Think big but take small steps.
In the non-profit world, three years is as far into the future as most groups
can consider. While it is important to set a direction with a view to
accomplishing a significant benefit for the community, the action steps
need to be carefully developed as many non-profits have limited budgets
and staff to carry out the plans.
8. Use a facilitator.
Facilitation is a critical skill for coordinating the ideas and contributions of
diverse sets of people within organizations. Hiring a professional facilitator
frees the executive director from the worries of making sure every one has
a say or that the meeting stays on track and finishes on time.
9. Ask clients… “What is missing?”
It is common to confer with experts in the field. However the people most
impacted by the actions of your organization are the clients. They often
know best what is needed. Collecting client comments anecdotally or in a
structured client survey is invaluable. In return you can thank the clients
who participate by taking their comments seriously and delivering
feedback to them when the planning is complete.
10. Follow up
Employees only do what the leader follows up on. The follow up includes
making sure the strategic plans have clear benchmarks that provide
parameters for the operational plans that follow. These operational plans
in turn need a follow up mechanism in the form of monthly progress
reports that tie into the strategic plans.
Some of the
in strategic planning?
When talking about “don’ts” in the area of strategic planning, there are a few
steadfast principles.
1. Don’t take too long to complete the plan. Most plans can be completed in a
one day or less. Some organizations with a larger strategy group may need two
2. Don’t focus on “analysis paralysis” but rather on what general direction you
want the organization to go, making sure to get
commitment to the milestones or benchmarks. These
will enable you to demonstrate later how you are
3. Don’t exclude key people who are responsible for
making the plan happen. If the key people don’t have
a hand in developing the plan, they will not be
committed to making it happen, thus rendering your
strategic plan a worthless piece of paper.
4. Leave the writing of novels to such qualified folks
as Leo Tolstoy. Don’t attempt to write a book like War
and Peace. Some of the best strategic plans are done
on one page and certainly less than 8 pages.
5. Once you have written your strategic plan, don’t throw it in the bottom drawer
and ignore it till next year, think of it as a living, breathing entity. You should have
it handy for constant review to determine its continuing validity.
6. It is not a document set in stone. If things change dramatically during the year,
don’t panic, be ready to call the strategy group together to revisit the plan.
7. Don’t treat it like a secret document to be put under lock and key. It needs to
be shared with as many stakeholders as possible so they can all help you
achieve your goals. It should not be unusual to share the plan with suppliers,
funding organizations, governments, employees, customers and the public at
How do we know if our strategic planning process is working?
Here are some of the some of the indicators of a successful strategic planning
We have a shared vision of the ideal future that is values-based
We have consensus on our direction for the next three to five years
Our actions are more coordinated
We have an inclusive, participatory process in which
board and staff take on a shared ownership
We have demonstrated some accountability to our
We are externally focused and sensitive to the
organization's environment
We are open to questioning the status quo
We use it as a key part of effective management.
We measure progress against the plan regularly
We are not afraid to redo the plan if it not longer fits
We are getting results and meeting the milestones we set
In essence, the best indicator of success is if your audience feels that your
plans are: big, noble, make sense and are worth the effort to help you achieve
Completing the strategic map - a case study
In December 2003, Stuart facilitated the development of a three year strategic
map for the Community YWCA of Muskoka. The board and staff had a one day
retreat in their offices one weekend.
The group selected a theme “We want to be a Champion Multi-centered Rural
Model for the delivery of affordable services and programs to women and girls of
all ages who live in communities in Muskoka.”
The group then selected the three areas of strategic focus to support the theme.
These areas of strategic focus
were: stable funding;
resources; and visibility/
community ownership.
Then the group went on to
define the critical factors to
support the strategic focus and
the benchmarks/ measures of
After the session, the
executive director then met
with the staff to develop
operational plans with action
steps, budget and resource
allocations and deadlines.
The executive director
reported each month to the
board on progress to meet
each of the deadlines.
In February of 2005 the
Board met to review the strategic map and revised the theme into a Mission “The
Community YWCA of Muskoka Champions women and girls, particularly at
critical turning points in their lives”.
The theme or slogan was also included in the first box of the strategic map and
became “The Y: Passion, Possibility & Choice.” The change of theme resulted in
changes to all the other elements of the strategic map. Again this process was
completed in less than a day.
“In 2003 we gathered for a
Strategic Mapping session…
In 2006 we have met many
of our goals set in 2003…
The organization was very pleased with the results of the strategic mapping and
continue to use this tool to update their strategic thinking. Here is the quote from
the executive director on the success of the process.
“On our way to meet our objectives in 2003-04 we have entered into and completed a
Strategic Mapping Process. We certainly couldn't have done this without the direction and
support of Stuart Morley, and we are most grateful to him for his role in putting us on this
path. The sessions that the board had with Stuart not only helped us design our future, but
also acquainted us with each other on a more personal level that has most certainly
enhanced relationships and board productivity.”
Carolyn Bray
Executive Director
Community YWCA of Muskoka
Using a retreat in the planning process
A planning retreat is a meeting typically involving board members and staff. It can
be one to two days long, sometimes using a facilitator to help structure the
Retreats are usually held away from the workplace or on weekends to ensure
that participants can focus wholly on the issues at hand and are not distracted by
the everyday interruptions of the office.
Sometimes other key stakeholders will be invited to join the retreat in an effort to
strengthen the relationship between those stakeholders and the organization or it
is used to educate individuals about the organization.
Part of the value of the planning process is the opportunity for representatives
from different parts of the organization to work together in setting the future
direction for the organization. Retreats provide an excellent way of achieving this
aspect of the planning process.
When a retreat should be used
An organization can have a retreat at any time
during the planning process, but the most
common times are either at the beginning or at
the end of the process.
Retreats may be organized at the beginning of
the process to educate participants on the
process or to build enthusiasm and commitment.
These types of retreats are opportunities to begin collecting and processing
information about the environment. Some organizations have external experts
speak on different strategic issues that may be important to keep in mind during
the planning process (e.g. role of fundraising, changing client needs, potential
duplication of services, or opportunities for collaboration, etc.).
Retreats may also be used at the conclusion of the planning process to complete
the one page strategic map which effectively summarizes the direction and key
benchmarks and then becomes a communication tool to board and staff.
In larger non profits, where not all the participants can attend the retreat, it is
important that the decisions and ideas are communicated to others to ensure
they understand and support the plan. The retreat, however, should not be used
in place of this routine communication -- it is a time for recognition of commitment
and contributions in addition to an opportunity for closure.
How a retreat can be formatted
Retreats are a combination of small and large group activities and discussions.
The small group is used for extensive discussion and consensus building,
whereas the large group is for reporting on small group activities, as well as brief
discussions and final decision making.
It is important to have a well planned retreat that includes a formal agenda and
planned outcomes distributed to retreat participants prior to the retreat. Michael
Doyle and David Strauss' book, How to Make Meetings Work, provides an
excellent reference guide to planning a successful retreat.
Benefits to having a retreat
A well planned and managed
retreat can accomplish several
key success factors that may
enhance your planning process.
They include:
Encouragement of creativity many people in group
situations stimulate each
other to think beyond
traditional boundaries.
Teambuilding for the organization - people work together more efficiently
once they know each other (e.g., personalities, work styles, methods of
communicating, etc.). Retreats provide an opportunity for staff, support
staff, and board members to come together and collaborate for the first
A foundation of common understanding - for many organizations, this is the
opportunity for everyone to hear the same information and messages.
Drawbacks to having a retreat
Although using retreats may enhance your planning process, there are several
potential drawbacks to having a retreat. They include:
Consumption of critical resources - a successful retreat takes a
considerable amount of planning. The process also consumes both cash
and time resources.
Pressure to produce results at the retreat - often the purpose of a retreat is
to identify and discuss issues. Not everyone feels that this is an effective
use of time, and the retreat can be viewed as a waste of time and other
scarce resources.
Generation of work the staff cannot or should not handle - participants often
assume that because it was discussed, it should happen. Sometimes the
group can feel overwhelmed with ideas generated and the planning process
as a whole.
When a retreat is right for your organization
There are a few questions to consider when evaluating whether your
organization should plan a retreat during the planning process:
How knowledgeable is the board about the organization and how much
will they be able to contribute in this setting?
What outcomes are the different parties looking for in the retreat?
How realistic is it that all outcomes will be accomplished?
How willing are the board and staff to commit preparation and
participation time?
Retreat checklist
One of the best ways to prepare for a strategic
planning retreat is to develop a pre- retreat and
retreat checklists.
A sample checklist is provided below:
Retreat Objectives (update strategic plan, board
governance training etc.)
Strategic Planning Horizon (1 year, 3 year, 5 year etc.)
Length and Date of Retreat (one day, two day, etc. in October)
Retreat Environment (boardroom, resort, hotel, B&B, lodge, park, etc.)
Type of Content Desired (main room, breakout space or breakout rooms, fun team building
programs etc.)
Number of Attendees (Departments/Divisions)
Training Topics and Activities
Pre-Retreat Checklist
Appoint facilitator to help plan and carry out the retreat
Circulate retreat agenda and obtain final approval from key team members.
Have an executive director presentation ready on how the organization has progressed
over the last year(s) and the major challenges facing the organization
Have program stats for participants (or email to participants)
Have copies of prior year plans sent to participants (or email to participants)
Have summaries of any market studies, client feedback results etc. (or email to
Conduct any employee/stakeholder survey interviews before the session
Have feedback/evaluation forms prepared
Make reservations for retreat venue, meeting rooms and lodging, if needed.
Arrange for projector/screen, laptop computer, flip chart and pens etc.
Make sure the retreat room and any breakout rooms have plenty of wall space to hang
flip chart notes
Arrange for note paper, post it notes and pens
Survey of participant’s food and drink preferences and needs.
Make food/snack arrangements (feed them more than you think they will eat, plus
Communicate retreat details to attendees.
Set up transportation plan – shared transport, maps to location, parking etc.
Plan recognition/incentive gifts.
Retreat Checklist
Provide attendees with a detailed itinerary.
Ensure that catering is handled (including any special dietary needs).
Ensure that meeting or breakout rooms are set up properly.
Have sessions videotaped (if applicable)
Have events photographed (if applicable)
Meet with facilitator for an event debriefing.
Post-Retreat Checklist
Plan any follow-up activities accordingly.
Circulate photos or video of retreat (if applicable) to the team
Review the evaluation forms of the entire retreat and prepare notes of improvements for
the next time
Finalize the strategic plan if it was not completed at the retreat.
Develop operational plans based on the results of the strategic plan prepared at the
Budget Checklist
Facility rental (guest and meeting rooms)
Meals and snacks
Travel for attendees
Facilitator fees and expenses
Special activities costs (dinner cruises, golfing, etc.)
Photography and or videotaping
Incentive prizes
For more information on strategic planning
You can contact Stuart and Theresa Morley at 1.888.687.3181 or by email at
stuart@morleyspeaks.com or check out the website at www.morleyspeaks.com
Stuart Morley MBA
Strategist & Keynote Speaker
Stuart works with leaders to take their organization to the next level. He is a
strategist in helping clients address marketing and financial issues to better
articulate a future for their organization. He is a frequent speaker to
associations and corporations on strategic issues.
Stuart has 25 years experience in the management consulting (focusing on
marketing strategy) and investment banking sectors (focusing on financial and
turnaround strategies). He has worked with more than 200 different
organizations including hospitals, health units, financial institutions, large public
corporations, professional firms, non-profit organizations and owner/managed
He is a Past President of the American Marketing Association (Toronto
Chapter). He is a part-time lecturer in Marketing at Georgian College
(Bracebridge Campus) and is a former part-time lecturer at Rhodes University
in South Africa plus he was a regular guest speaker at Ryerson University.
Stuart is a frequent speaker at conferences on strategic issues. He is a
National Member of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers
(CAPS) and is a Board Member of the Toronto Chapter. Stuart is an active
member of CAFE (Canadian Association of Family Enterprise and is also a
guest expert on the CFIB (Canadian Federation of Independent Business)
website (www.cfib.ca). He is a leadership coach in partnership with Fulcrum
Search Science (an executive recruiting firm in Toronto).
Stuart earned a B.Sc. in Agricultural Economics and an MBA from the
University of Cape Town, South Africa.
Prior to starting Morley & Associates in 1996 he was a partner in an
investment-banking firm for seven years. His career started as a Management
Consultant with Deloitte in Cape Town and he transferred to Toronto in 1986.
He became a Certified Management Consultant in 1987.
Stuart was Co-Chair of the Strategic Leadership Forum Conference on High
Performance Organizations. He is on the leadership team of the Business
Retention and Expansion Project for Gravenhurst, led by the Mayor of
He is a Past Vice President of Muskoka Family Focus and Children’s Place and
is a Past President of Gravenhurst Minor Hockey Association.
Morley & Associates Inc. is a family business with offices in Barrie and
Gravenhurst. Stuart Morley focuses on providing clients with strategic
facilitation and business planning services while Theresa Morley, CA, provides
QuickBooks coaching, accounting and tax services to clients.
Download PDF