« Posts

Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin: How to Select Critical Planning Issues for Your Organization

A common pitfall in strategy formulation phase of strategic planning comes from trying to accomplish too much at once: laying out each and every issue that the organization faces or has faced in the past, and trying to address all of them in one fell swoop.  This approach leads to an overwhelming amount of tasks and initiatives to be accomplished by too few people whose resources are likely already stretched thin, and the most critical issues facing the organization likely getting lost in the process.

Organizations that select a smaller number of broad issues (about three to five) to address and invest in are more likely to remain focused on strategy formulation and eventual action. We call these issues an organization’s critical planning issues (CPIs).

To begin the process of identifying an organization’s CPIs, here are three helpful tips to keep in mind:

  1. Remain externally and strategically focused, rather than focused on operational or infrastructural concerns (see a previous post on this topic).  For example, examine the SWOT analysis performed in the environmental assessment phase for the issues that stand out the most in the opportunities and threats sections.
  2. Look to high-performing peer organizations, and determine which gaps or barriers stand in the way at your organization becoming as effective as the best of breed.  These are likely to become the genesis of the core CPIs facing your organization.
  3. If selecting from a large group of issues (like most organizations do), it might prove helpful to involve a group of stakeholders who can help whittle down the issues through group exercises, priority ranking surveys, or other strategic thought-provoking maneuvers to generate an initial list of the most important three to five issues.

Once the initial list of CPIs has been selected, the next step is to examine the organizational direction, including the mission, vision, and values (see previous post).  After affirming these important characteristics of the organization, return to the CPIs, and determine whether or not they should be edited or tailored in any way to better involve the elements of organizational direction.

A final set of CPIs will provide the necessary framework for strategy development, with the formulation of goals, major initiatives, and short-term objectives for each CPI.

Has your organization identified its own CPIs? Did you use a similar process to do so?