The Foundation for Planning

In Part I of SEI’s series on sustainability planning, we covered the eight essential elements of sustainability planning. Before diving into each element, let’s set the stage for planning.  “Planning to plan” may not sound like loads of fun, but it certainly makes the process go much smoother and you will have more confidence in the end product. 

If you have a strategic plan in place, you will have a good understanding of and foundation for sustainability planning. However, having a strategic plan is not the same as having a sustainability plan. They are certainly connected, and often, in SEI’s practice, developed in conjunction with one another, but you don’t need a strategic plan to make sustainability a priority. Many people think that a sustainability plan is just about money, but in fact it is about creating not just financial investments, but stable, diverse, and reliable investments in people, relationships, and non-monetary resources. A sustainability plan asks you to think about the relationships you need in your community to advance your organization’s mission.  It describes the organization’s current internal strengths to leverage for the future, and defines areas for growth.  A final, critical, aspect of the plan is identifying how your organization can adapt to take advantage of future opportunities and changing conditions beyond your control. Clearly then, the sustainability plan exceeds the scope of a two or three-year strategic plan.

To help move beyond the finite purview of the strategic plan, the results of an organizational self-assessment can be very useful in sustainability planning. Assessment may sound scary but there are a variety of approaches and tools at your disposal. From a simple SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis to a more formal analysis using a tool like the Malcom Baldrige Excellence Framework or McKinsey’s Organizational Capacity Assessment Tool, you’ll be in a better position to think long term if you’ve first examined the current state of your workforce, resources, sector or industry, and results.

We’ve created a “Planning to Plan” checklist and worksheet to help you build a solid foundation for planning. You can access that here

Now that you’ve laid the foundation for your plan, it’s time to turn your attention to developing your vision and desired results. If you are ready, check out Part III of this blog series for developing your vision and understanding how a vision guides sustainability planning.