Basics of Monitoring, Evaluating
Deviating from the Strategic Plan
© Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC.
Adapted from the Field Guide to Nonprofit Strategic Planning and Facilitation.
(The reader might best be served to first read the information
in the topic Strategic Planning. This
library topic explains basics of strategic planning, basic elements
in the process, how to prepare for planning, conducting planning,
writing and communicating the document, evaluating the strategic
Sections of This Topic Include
Great Value from Evaluating the Strategic Planning Activity
Responsibilities for Monitoring
Key Questions While Monitoring Implementation of the Plan
Frequently of Monitoring
Reporting Status of Implementation
Deviating from Plan
Changing the Plan
A Note About Celebration
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As stated several times throughout this library topics (and in
materials linked from it), too many strategic plans end up collecting
dust on a shelf. Monitoring and evaluating the planning activities
and status of implementation of the plan is — for many organizations
— as important as identifying strategic issues and goals. One
advantage of monitoring and evaluation is to ensure that the organization
is following the direction established during strategic planning.
The above advantage is obvious. Adults tend to learn best when
they’re actually doing something with new information and materials
and then they’re continuing to reflect on their experiences. You
can learn a great deal about your organization and how to manage
it by continuing to monitor the implementation of strategic plans.
Note that plans are guidelines. They aren’t rules. It’s OK
to deviate from a plan. But planners should understand the reason
for the deviations and update the plan to reflect the new direction.
The strategic plan document should specify who is responsible
for the overall implementation of the plan, and also who is responsible
for achieving each goal and objective.
The document should also specify who is responsible to monitor
the implementation of the plan and made decisions based on the
results. For example, the board might expect the chief executive
to regularly report to the full board about the status of implementation,
including progress toward each of the overall strategic goals.
In turn, the chief executive might expect regular status reports
from middle managers regarding the status toward their achieving
the goals and objectives assigned to them.
1. Are goals and objectives being achieved or not?
If they are, then acknowledge, reward and communicate the progress.
If not, then consider the following questions.
2. Will the goals be achieved according to the timelines specified
in the plan? If not, then why?
3. Should the deadlines for completion be changed (be careful
about making these changes — know why efforts are behind schedule
before times are changed)?
4. Do personnel have adequate resources (money, equipment,
facilities, training, etc.) to achieve the goals?
5. Are the goals and objectives still realistic?
6. Should priorities be changed to put more focus on achieving
7. Should the goals be changed (be careful about making these
changes — know why efforts are not achieving the goals before
changing the goals)?
8. What can be learned from our monitoring and evaluation in
order to improve future planning activities and also to improve
future monitoring and evaluation efforts?
The frequency of reviews depends on the nature of the organization
and the environment in which it’s operating. Organizations experiencing
rapid change from inside and/or outside the organization may want
to monitor implementation of the plan at least on a monthly basis.
Boards of directors should see status of implementation at
least on a quarterly basis.
Chief executives should see status at least on a monthly basis.
Always write down the status reports. In the reports,
1. Answers to the above key questions while monitoring implementation.
2. Trends regarding the progress (or lack thereof) toward goals,
including which goals and objectives
3. Recommendations about the status
4. Any actions needed by management
It’s OK do deviate from the plan. The plan is only a guideline,
not a strict roadmap which must be followed.
Usually the organization ends up changing its direction somewhat
as it proceeds through the coming years. Changes in the plan usually
result from changes in the organization’s external environment
and/or client needs result in different organizational goals,
changes in the availability of resources to carry out the original
The most important aspect of deviating from the plan is knowing
why you’re deviating from the plan, i.e., having a solid
understanding of what’s going on and why.
Be sure some mechanism is identified for changing the
plan, if necessary. For example, regarding changes, write down:
1. What is causing changes to be made.
2. Why the changes should be made (the “why” is often
different than “what is causing” the changes).
3. The changes to made, including to goals, objectives, responsibilities
Manage the various versions of the plan (including by putting
a new date on each new version of the plan).
Always keep old copies of the plan.
Always discuss and write down what can be learned from recent
planning activity to make the next strategic planning activity
I’ve been involved with many strategic planning activities.
Rarely, when a plan is completed, do organizations really acknowledge
the success they have achieved. Instead, planners are often so
focused on “progress” and problem solving, that they’re
too eager to move on to the next version of the plan.
Celebration is as important as accomplishing objectives —
maybe more. Without a sense of closure, acknowledgement and fulfillment
from a job well done, the next planning cycle becomes a grind.
Return to the topic Strategic Planning.
For the Category of Strategic Planning:
To round out your knowledge of this Library topic, you may want to review some related topics, available from the link below. Each of the related topics includes free, online resources.
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