Time to Check in on Planning

We’re at the time of year where most organizations are reviewing and revising or developing plans based on data collected at the end of a quarter, mid-point, or end of a fiscal year. Or at least they should be! Hopefully you have developed a strategic plan that ties mission to specific, time-limited, and measurable goals and stepwise objectives. Additionally, the plan has tied your resource allocation and development to those goals. An actionable plan, as I’ve discussed in previous blogs, is one that serves as an organizational roadmap and evaluative tool. Everyone from Board members to line staff should understand what is to be achieved, how, by whom, and by when. Reporting should consistently reflect progress in achieving those goals, implementing those processes the plan has set forth to get there, and the effective use of the resources allocated toward it. If the strategic plan is sitting on a shelf until organizational policies say it should be revised – it’s not really a plan at all.

Planning & Measuring Success with Technology

ContinuumCloud’s recent 2022 Tech Experiences and Impact Report suggests that while organizations have a wide range of technology, they are not using them to capacity, nor are they effectively integrating the various software and platforms they have implemented. Tech ROI only becomes maximized when the organization can maximize the value of each component and integrate them meaningfully in ways that support the pillars of an effective plan. Success in any organization comes from implementing processes that maximize patient/consumer benefit while making effective use of resources and contributing to (or at least not diminishing) the bottom line. Measuring success in this way indicates the need to integrate data and information from various sources: service records, human resource data, and financial data. As organizations review, revise, or develop plans they need to be mindful of the need for integrated data if they are to have actionable information from which to move forward.

An effective planning process is iterative, meaning that periodic review and revision is intrinsic to effective planning. Organizations typically develop three-to-five-year strategic plans. After all, goals and objectives are essentially hypotheses that posit “if we implement x process or practice effectively, then we should expect y as the outcome.” Each of these elements suggests data that can be collected to validate, or invalidate the hypothesis. That, in turn, demands a review: Do “x” more? Do “x” less? Stop “x” altogether? Revise “y”? determine it all needs to be scrapped?

Strategic Plans Protect Against Uncertainty

This view of planning is particularly critical in the volatile environment in which human service organizations operate. They are affected by political winds and resources allocated as a result. As 2019 was drawing to a close, no one was planning for the pressures created by a global, now almost three-year long pandemic. Plans developed in 2019 have likely had to undergo significant revision, some may have had to be scrapped entirely. In these times, planning processes must have a clear focus on mission relevance: What are we accomplishing? For whom? How? With what resources? In the next planning cycle, organizations will have to consider changes in technology in the workplace, changes in workforce availability and expectations, and changes in resource utilization and availability. Revenues in human services are often driven by governmental priorities and funding and expenses driven by personnel costs. How organizations navigate these currently troubled waters will largely depend on how well they know the needs of their client base and community, the status of their current and potential workforce, and the potential revenues and costs associated with delivering their services.

Effective deployment of technology and data resources can significantly aid this process. Next month, I’ll write about some specific data and information that should be included in a planning and evaluation process to address these issues and then in December talk about ways in which data converted to information can be used to address these concerns. If these are the things that keep your team up at night, check back in the next two months.

About the Author

Maggie Labarta

Maggie Labarta is Founder and Consultant at Impact Non-profit Consulting, having previously retired as CEO of Meridian Behavioral Healthcare. Labarta holds a Ph.D. in Clinical and Community Psychology and has extensive experience in both administration and clinical practice. She also has particular expertise in strategic planning, data and analytics as management tools, and organizational development. She provides consultative services for numerous community organizations.

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