What is success? Strategic planning, mission, vision, and outcome measures flow from one question.

Here’s a great question to drive your strategic planning:

What is success?

Follow-up questions could be:

  • What does success look like?
  • How will we know when we achieved it?
  • How can we measure it?

If you can answer that one key question, a host of other questions would be easy to answer.

Are you serious?

Clearly defining success would also answer an unasked question: Is success even possible?

Let’s say your mission is to end poverty in your state. Let me rephrase that: our goal is to have every person in the state to have income equal to 150% of the current poverty line. Seems to me that would be a realistic definition of ending poverty.

Also seems to me that won’t ever happen, for a really long list of reasons. If it were somehow achievable, it would take a nearly unlimited amount of time and a nearly unlimited budget to get close.

Perhaps success would better be defined as reducing the poverty rate by half (two-thirds, or whatever number you want) within 15 years. That can focus your efforts. You could structure your program around that.

Other things fall into place

With a reasonable definition of success, all sorts of other things fall into place.

You can then define the organization’s vision and mission.

You could then develop programs that can get you to a place of success.

The necessary staffing levels and funding needed would be clearer.  As time passes, decisions would be easier for figuring out where to allocate increased resources or make cuts when needed.

You could also develop outcome measures, assessment tools, and performance metrics to help assess whether you are making progress.

Answer that question, What Is Success?, and the rest of strategic planning, managing and direction of the organization can fall into place.

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