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Our 7-Step Goal-Setting Strategic Planning Process

Written by Paul Steinbrueck

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Setting goals can be difficult and even controversial.

Most of us live busy lives, and it’s easy to get caught up in that busyness and think, “I just don’t have time to set goals.”

Part of the reason people don’t set goals is because goal-setting can seem like a big, overwhelming project.

To be candid, setting goals is a big project, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

As with every big project, if you have a process that breaks it down into smaller steps which you can do over several weeks, it can make the whole process much easier, even fun. 😮

Take a walk with me…

Imagine you and I decide to go for a hike together and we come face to face with a 100 foot cliff.  I don’t know about you, but I am not a rock climber, so there is no way I can go straight up the cliff to get to the top.

But suppose I’ve done this hike many times before and I know right around the corner is a series of switch-backs with a relatively slight incline. We can take those switch-backs and walk to the top of the cliff .  What seemed at first like an overwhelming and even impossible task, turns out to be relatively easy when we know the easy path.

In this article I’m going to share with you, the step-by-step strategic planning process we use here at OurChurch.Com each year to set the 4 types of goals we discussed earlier.

I don’t think I’ve ever shared this publicly before, so you get the first, inside look.

7-Step Strategic Planning Process

1) Remember who we are, where we’re going

We always start our strategic planning process with prayer.  We follow that with reviewing our organization’s vision, mission and values.  We read them out loud.  This reminds of who we are and where we are going.

2) Determine where we are now

To make any journey successful, you have to know both your starting point and your destination.  To evaluate where we are now, we do three things:

  • Celebrate last year’s successes. We keep a “Wins, Losses, and Stories” Google doc, which we add to throughout the year.  Before the meeting, I review it and note our biggest wins. Then together our leadership team reviews and celebrates the big wins.
  • Evaluate last year’s goals. The leader of each department does some prep to evaluate how well they did to all 4 types of goals the previous year – objectives, projects, processes and numerical goals. Then  they present and discuss their evaluations with the leadership team.
  • SWOT Analysis. We list and discuss the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats for each department and our organization as a whole.  This is helpful because see the strengths we can build on, the weaknesses we can work on, the opportunities to consider taking, and the threats we may want to protect against.

3) Determine objectives

The first type of goals we set are objectives.  These are general goals like increase SEO clients or improve hosting support.  A church’s objectives might be to reach out to more people in the community or improve discipleship and spiritual growth.  We take 3 “sub-steps” when setting objectives.

  • List possible objectives. This is an idea-sharing, brainstorming session. There are no wrong answers, just get everything out there and onto a whiteboard.
  • Pray and discuss. This is where we start to try to discern which objectives God is leading us towards and which are maybe not a good fit for this year, which are really important and which are less important. Usually, we end our first day of strategic planning at this point and give our leadership team a week or two think and pray on this.
  • Decide and prioritize. This last step is the most difficult. It will vary depending on an organizations leadership and decision making structure.  We use a quazi-democratic process.  We have each person on the leadership team privately list their top 10 objectives. Then we each give 10 points to our #1 objective, 9 points to our #2 objective, down the line to 1 point for our #10 objective.  We combine everyone’s scores together and see what we have. Where there is broad agreement, we feel affirmed. Where there is a significant disparity in rankings, we invite to people to explain and even to lobby to increase or decrease the priority of an objective.  Ultimately, seek unanimous agreement on the prioritized list of objectives for the year.

4) Determine projects and processes

Objectives are the “what” of goal setting. Once we know what we’re going to do, the next step is to determine how we are going to do it.  This is where we figure out our project and process goals.  We use a very similar process for projects and processes as we do with objectives with one extra step.

  • List possible projects and processes. We go one by one through the objectives and ask, “What projects could we do or processes could we add/change to help us reach this objective?” This is an idea-sharing, brainstorming session. There are no wrong answers, just get everything out there and onto a whiteboard.
  • Research possible projects and processes. One of the problems we ran into years ago when we first started doing strategic planning is we would try to prioritize projects but had questions about the cost or time they would require. We couldn’t make an informed decision. As Jesus said in Luke 14:28, “”Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?”  Now we have some discussion about the possible projects and processes, determine which need to be researched, who will research them, end that day’s meeting and give everyone a week or two to do their research and create project plans.
  • Pray and discuss possible projects and processes. Here we discuss the projects, project plans and research.  We try to share the project plans and research ahead of this next meeting so we’re not going in cold.  That puts us in a better position to be able to decide on and prioritize projects in the same meeting they’re discussed.
  • Decide and prioritize. As with the objectives, this is the most difficult step and will vary depending on your organizational structure.  We use the same process for prioritizing projects and processes as we do for objectives – vote, discuss, and make adjustments to gain consensus.

5) Schedule projects

Now that we’ve determined the priorities of all the projects and processes, we put those projects and processes into a schedule.  Usually I do this, putting together a proposed schedule for the rest of the leadership team to review and provide feedback before its finalized.  The schedule is going to depend on who is doing the work, how many hours it’s going to take, and how many hours a week they have to put towards strategic planning projects.  This helps us set deadlines.

We also have to factor communications into our schedule.  If we’re launching a new or improved service, how are we going to communicate that and over what period of time?  If we are trying to help our clients accomplish something, like increase the percentage of clients who secure their site with an SSL certificate, are we going to raise awareness by doing a blog series or theme month on that?

Churches have to consider similar things when scheduling.  There’s the availability of staff and volunteers, as well as factoring in seasons when people are more receptive to visiting a new church, starting a bible study, or volunteering to help those in need.

6) Set numerical goals

As I’ve said before, setting numerical goals is a controversial subject within churches, because ultimately we believe the outcome is up to the Lord.  Here at OurChurch.Com we also believe our outcomes are dependent on God as well. However, we also set numerical goals to help us measure how well we are accomplishing our objectives.

7) Stay on track, make course corrections

One thing I can guarantee – if you set goals at the beginning of the year, put them in a folder, and don’t take them out until the end of the year, you will not accomplish many of those goals.

We review our project schedule every week during staff meetings to make sure everyone knows the projects and processes they should be working on and when they are due.  We also do a quarterly review of our strategic plan to see if we need to make any adjustment to the schedule.

So, there you have it – that’s how we scale that 100 foot cliff of goal-setting.  Not by trying to go straight up the rock face in one shot, but rather step-by-step, usually over the course of a month.

Get Started!

If you are reading this and thinking to yourself, “It’s mid-January (or later) and we haven’t even started talking about goals.  Maybe we can try this next year,”  don’t get put off by the calendar.  It’s better to put together goals and a plan that will guide you through the last 10 months of the year, than to do the rest of this year without goals and a plan.

Bottom line…

It is more important to know where you are going than to get there quickly. Do not mistake activity for achievement. -Mabel Newcomber

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Once you’ve set your goals, if a new website, a DIY website builder or better search rankings can help you achieve them, we’d love to help you with that.

Post and comment and discuss… What’s your biggest take-away from this article?

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About the author

Paul Steinbrueck

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck.

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