Often as ministry leaders, business owners, or in our regular work or home life, we have big goals. We can see the vision of where we want to go. But we sometimes get sidetracked and end up spending a lot of time on things that aren’t actually moving us closer to that goal.
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But it doesn’t have to be this way. In this first episode of our Simplify Series, Holly and I are discussing the idea of simplifying with strategy. Specifically, we are sharing some basic steps to creating a strategic plan for your business or ministry.
“When you create a plan for doing something, it actually helps you to simplify your life, your business, and your time.” – Esther Littlefield
Note: Holly and I are not experts in strategic planning, but we do have some experience in this area. We are keeping this episode simple because we want it to be actionable for anyone, even if you have no project management or strategic planning experience.
Why do we need a strategic plan?
There are 4 benefits to creating a strategic plan for your business or ministry:
- Time savings: When you have a strategy and a plan, you’re less likely to waste time on things that don’t matter.
- Focus: You’re more likely to focus on the things that have the highest return on investment, as Tembi Secrist shared in episode 83.
- Clarity: It makes it easier for everyone to know what you are doing, where you are going, and how they should spend their time.
- Stewardship: we can be better stewards of the resources God has given us when we implement a strategic plan.
A Simple Framework to Create a Strategic Plan:
I’m going way back to my years as a social worker to help us through this concept of creating a strategic plan.
That might seem strange, because social work is not usually associated with strategic planning. But as a caseworker working with kids in foster care as well as kids with behavioral challenges, I had to write treatment plans. These plans were essentially the guide that we used to show what we were providing for services with the kids and how we were supporting them towards making improvements in their situations.
The framework below is based on the plans that I used to write as a social worker. We’re keeping it basic, but you can do some research and find lots more resources to get into more details on strategic planning if you wish.
We will walk through the basic steps of creating a strategic plan, and during this process, Holly will share from a specific example of a project we worked on at our church.
Step 1: Identify the overall vision
In episode 26, we talked about the idea of creating a vision for the future. It’s important to get down on paper what the vision or end goal for your ministry or business is. This step may also include creating a summary of what the strengths and weaknesses are within the organization.
Step 2: Identify 2-3 goals that will help move you towards the vision
In this step, you’ll want to ask: What are the projects or goals that are going to help that vision actually come to fruition? Ideally these are things that will be more specific than the general vision.
“Most of the time, whether individually or as a business or ministry, we are more effective when we focus on less things and focus on finishing them.” – Esther Littlefield
Step 3: For each goal, identify 2-3 objectives needed to accomplish each goal
You can see we are getting more granular as we go through the process. These could be the daily habits that you need to put into place in order to accomplish a goal. Or they could be smaller mini-goals.
Step 4: Determine who is responsible for each of the items on your plan
Without this, your plan is doomed! If there is not clarity around who is doing what, then there’s no way the plan will be accomplished. Or, it is very likely that things will be missed or time will be wasted.
“If there is not clarity around who is doing what, then there’s no way the plan will be accomplished.” – Esther Littlefield
Part of determining who will do what is knowing where each person’s greatest contribution lies, as we discussed earlier. Another piece of this is making sure that you are open to delegating and getting team participation as discussed in episode 42.
Step 5: Identify the timeframe
Make sure you know the timeframe for the project or plan you are working towards. You may also want to create smaller time frames for the objectives or smaller goals from step 3.
It’s also possible that you decide to do your project or goal in phases, so this can be outlined within the strategic plan. If your project has 3 phases, you may end up creating a plan for each phase.
90 days is typically a good timeframe for plans, but you can choose the amount of time that works well for your particular situation.
Step 6: Evaluate and update the plan
You may not hit your targets or unexpected changes may have come up during the plan. It’s important to evaluate where you are at before your target date arrives, and then update the plan as needed.
Questions to ask for this step:
- Did you accomplish the goals and/or objectives you set out to do? If so, yay! If not, you may want to add them back into the new plan.
- Are there new goals you want to accomplish? Great, get them down onto paper for the next plan you are creating.
A few caveats to creating a strategic plan:
- Sometimes there is pushback and resistance to creating a plan. This is normal.
- Keep in mind that a creative person or visionary may want or needs some flexibility to make adaptations or changes along the way.
- For someone who is more structured, you may need to realize not everything is going to work exactly according to your plan, and you still need to allow for changes or pivots.
- Remember that capacity is an important factor in your strategic plan.
“It’s important to remember that things are going to pop up that you weren’t expecting… pushback from others, resistance, and getting yourself on task is difficult at times.” – Holly Cain
We hope this conversation has helped you to see that creating a strategic plan does not have to be complicated. And having a plan can actually help simplify your ministry or business life.
Take the time to sit down and create your plan! Choose one area of your life and work through these steps for your plan.
Do you need individualized help with creating your strategic plan? If so, you can contact me or Holly:
- I specialize in working with business owners and can offer Strategic Mapping™ for business owners. Contact me by emailing hello at estherlittlefield.com.
- Holly specializes in working with churches and ministries and she will soon be certified and able to offer Strategic Mapping™ as well. Contact Holly by emailing cain810 at gmail.com.
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