A goal without a plan is simply a wish. As a chamber professional, you understand the value of a chamber strategic plan, but you might not be prepared to face the challenges in drafting and implementing one.
Here are seven common pitfalls to avoid when creating your strategic plan.
What Is a Strategic Plan?
A strategic plan is a roadmap for the next 1-3 years for your chamber with details how you will get there. It focuses on the most important areas for success and what the chamber will do in those areas to have the largest impact.
The document acts to direct staff and committees on how to separate what matters from what’s less important in guiding decision-making and resource allocation. It also tells the community about the chambers priorities and initiatives.
More and more chambers are deciding to make their strategic plan a forward-facing document to excite and energize the community behind the innovation the chamber seeks to institute.
But strategic planning can make a lot of people nervous. It sounds complicated. It’s not the type of thing you want to mess up. Some chamber CEOs also don’t feel they have the complete support of their board to be able to put together something of this magnitude.
However, without one in place, it’s difficult to prioritize time and money (and measure staff success).
A strategic plan gives everyone a clear direction and gets their buy-in. When you involve people in the creation of the chamber strategic plan, they will feel responsible for it and will be more apt to want to help it succeed.
Learn more about how to put together a strategic plan here.
But first, here’s what to avoid as you prepare for and create your chamber strategic plan.
The 7 Most Common Chamber Strategic Plan Mistakes
Doing It Alone
While it seems like you might be able to talk to your board and pull together some ideas for a strategic plan, you will save yourself a lot of headaches if you work with an outside facilitator. A consultant who specializes in strategic planning is the best option but if you don’t have it in the budget, you might be able to work with a chamber exec with familiarity in strategic planning. Either way, you have a neutral person leading the discussion. Here’s some information on how to pick a facilitator you can work with.
Failing to Assign Ownership
Have you ever been part of a group email where the sender talks about what needs to be done and uses the confusing pronoun “we?”
- “We need to work on affordable housing.”
- “We need to send an email to the mayor.”
- “We need to put together an agenda…”
Who is we? Is we me? Is we you? Is we the intern?
If everyone is responsible, then no one takes responsibility.
We is plural. Did the sender really mean for the doer to be plural? Maybe so but even in those cases, you need ownership. Someone must drive the action and ensure it was completed as specified. For instance, even if you’re talking about a grassroots email writing campaign and “we” refers to all the people you will ask to write, you still need someone to lead the campaign.
It’s easy to have the vision and create an amazing plan but if the tactics aren’t overseen by someone specific, you won’t have success.
This info is kept private, not in the public document.
Not Tracking Milestones
If you are creating a big, hairy, audacious plan tackling the three biggest issues in your community–that’s terrific. But large challenges rarely solve themselves with one large solution. You need to break it down into actions that can be tracked and measured toward success. This measurement should help you see whether you are on track to meet your chamber strategic planning goals or whether you are a long way off.
Small measuring points can also help your chamber feel accomplished as it makes progress. No one runs a marathon by just deciding to do it. First, you make the decision to run it, then plot out how you will get there by setting your first week’s training and goal, then the second, and so on.
This info is also kept private, not for public consumption.
You don’t need to use everyone’s suggestions in the strategic plan, but you do need for everyone who has a stake in the outcome to feel heard and to know that their opinions are valued.
Brainstorming sessions on what’s most important to the chamber should involve your entire board and other stakeholders in the community. You may need to start by identifying your stakeholders.
You much include them because it helps them feel responsible for a positive outcome. They may also see a challenge that you didn’t recognize.
When people feel neglected or spoken over, they may dig their heels in and decide to be difficult. No chamber needs that so do your best to foster communication and an environment of respect by including all your stakeholders in the chamber strategic plan.
Brainstorming in a Bubble or on Trend
There will always be hot topics in the world, but if they don’t fit your community, don’t worry about them.
Create a chamber strategic plan that solves the challenges you are facing (or soon will) and plays to your chamber’s strengths, while also identifying your weaknesses. Ignore the temptation to copy what others are doing or talking about just because of the buzz.
Failing to Fully Incorporate the Strategy
The other problem with brainstorming in a bubble is failing to incorporate your strategic plan into your chamber’s culture. For instance, let’s say you have a diversity initiative in your strategic plan and as part of your tactics, you’re hosting lunch and learns on the topic. And yet, your board lacks diversity. If you don’t incorporate your strategic plan into your culture, you will be creating a nice work of art, not a working document.
Leaving the Plan on the Shelf
This is not a “set it and forget it” process. Yet many people treat it like just another box on their leadership checklist. A chamber strategic plan is a living document. It may need to be adjusted as things change–and they will (remember COVID? That interrupted a lot of plans.).
You will also want to share it with the community and become part of their conversations about the future. People tend to forget what’s not in front of them, especially when things get busy and this includes the community, your board, and your employees.
You wouldn’t place your to-do list on a shelf so why do people create strategic plans, put them in a binder, and never look at them again? Probably because it feels like a magnum opus and one that should be revered. But in reality, it’s one you should take great pride in sharing.
After all, your chamber strategic plan is a map to all the exciting places you’re going in the future. You need to look at it occasionally to make sure you’re still on course to your destination.
By: Christina Metcalf