By Shannon Sage
Getting Your Board on Board the Strategic Planning Effort

Your organization’s governing or policy board plays an important part in your strategic planning efforts. The degree of influence boards have varies from nonprofit to government organizations. But in some form or fashion, these appointed or elected members are responsible for defining the organization’s purpose and mission, articulating the strategic priorities for the planning year, and monitoring the execution of the plan.

The role of the policy board

So just what is the role of the policy board, board of directors, board of county commissioners, the city council, and so on, then?

Effective policy board members should do the following:

  • Focus their attention on their policy-making role and stay out of the day-to-day
  • Establish a clear set of priorities for the organization
  • Hold a staff accountable for achieving the established priorities through regular meetings and tying budget requests to the strategic plan
  • Listen and acknowledge staff recommendations regarding the execution of the plan
  • Concentrate their resources on being more effective at policy making

Being tight on the end and loose on the means

Being tight on the ends involves building a strong commitment and understanding of objectives and goals of your organization and its board. Although the objectives and goals are written in ink, create the action items in pencil. Allow those who are responsible for the goals — that is, your board —  to develop their own methods to best achieve the goals. Hence, loose on the means.

Many strategic planning experts have recognized the importance of flexibility and authority in the implementation of a strategic plan. Those people involved in the implementation process need to have enough flexibility and authority to be creative and responsive to new developments — without having to reconstruct an entire strategic plan. Flexibility is important as adjustments are necessary when planning for an uncertain future. An organization’s objectives and goals are much less likely and far more difficult to change than the programs and activities planned to achieve them.


An organization’s goal is to increase new customers by ten percent this month. In order to achieve this goal, corporate headquarters created a sales promotion as an action item. The local employees realized there was a major conflicting event in their community that would hinder the success of their promotion. Clearly those responsible for implementing the promotion needed to adjust the program plan without changing the original goal. Among their options are an extended promotion or a new date altogether.