Organization Development: Planning

Guide the efficient development of long-term strategic and shorter-term operational plans.

The case

In these times of uncertainty, planning is an often overlooked opportunity to create unity of purpose and effort. In fact, a great time to plan is when things feel most overwhelming. Being too busy to plan is like running alongside your bicycle because you’re too busy to get on! Good planning provides shared and articulated direction for the group’s actions while giving guidance for decisions when the expected unexpected happens. Planning is less about rigid adherence to predetermined action or the creation of a document than about identifying and coalescing around principles that inform action aimed at desired outcomes. Strategic planning examines core questions such as organizational values and strengths, reason for existence, ultimate intended outcomes, overall approach, the context in which it expects to operate, and the long-term impact of all of the above. From there the organization can determine major bodies of work to meet its long-term goals. Operational planning focuses on the short-term (one -to-two years) and allocates time and resources to accomplish immediate goals.

Berthoud Consulting approach in action

Adept at multiple methods and models of planning, we will match the specific planning approach to the organization’s needs. In general, we

  • Clarify the goals of planning. Determine whether the organization will be examining immediate or fundamental issues. Identify key decision makers in the process.
  • Establish the planning committee to coordinate the planning process, serve as the primary information channel to and from key stakeholders, and ensure that the planning process is consistent with the organization’s needs and culture.
  • Determine what information is needed to guide planning. Determine how to gather the information and from whom.
  • Through a series of meetings or retreats, revise or develop mission, vision, goals, strategies, activities, timelines, budgets, and measures, as needed.
  • Draft and revise plans with feedback from key stakeholders.
  • Evaluate the planning process itself and identify lessons learned about how to plan.


Plans are useful because they direct the organization’s actions. By following the process outlined above, people understand where the organization is going and how they play a role in getting it there. Their participation is a source of vital information and their energy is the resource that will implement the plan once it’s created.

Heather’s understanding of the dynamics between staff and board, common foibles of non-profits and best practices make her a valuable partner in developing organizational direction.  We are a complex organization and have a number of challenging dynamics.  Her approach was professional and non-judgmental, while also challenging us. We found the strategic assessment to be extremely valuable.  We pay closer attention to the internal and external factors affecting our ability to achieve our mission.  The impact has been incredible.  We have clarity of purpose to our staff and board training and development efforts.  Our membership and donor programs are in synch with our program efforts.  Our staff structure is evolving to best fill the needs suggested by our strategic assessment.  We are able to focus our program and our work plans more easily and less painfully.  The process of narrowing our agenda and setting clearer priorities makes sense and has buy-in from both staff and board.

Marie Zellar
Former State Director
Clean Water Action Alliance of MN

See also

Planning for Those Too Busy to Plan

When is Strategic Planning Appropriate?