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strategic planning.jfif

Strategic planning is not a process that unions, as organizations, have historically embraced. For many years the concept of strategic planning was seen as exclusive to employers and, to some leaders, the place where all the union’s problems originated. Some thought that strategic planning was only valuable for vertically complex union structures where professional staff ran the day-to-day operations. I don’t think the distinction between member-driven flat organizations or professionally staffed vertically complex unions makes a difference - planning is a useful process for all.  


The idea of planning’s value should begin with defining what it should be – a process where a union’s representatives gather to discuss the environment in which their organization exists, the challenges on the horizon and whether the union is prepared to effectively face them. A proper planning exercise has a focus on the process over content. As future US President Dwight Eisenhower once quipped, “…plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” Likewise, Winston Churchill once observed that “plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.” I wouldn’t dispose of the plan as quickly (after all both Eisenhower and Churchill made these comments in the context of global armed conflict), but I agree that an emphasis on the discussion gives leaders the most value. 


​One of the problems with strategic planning is that you can make it as complex as you want (or as some consultant suggests), which often causes many plans to be left unattended. At its core, the planning process should be simple. A good plan should not be long – grocery lists are long – planning for your union should be concise and focused on “achievable but ambitious” tasks to be implemented within a reasonable period. Longer term planning has its place, but many of the challenges unions face often require attention over a shorter period.​


Union leaders often inherit an organization created years ago, by leaders who were responding to yesterday's issues. The planning process is the opportunity to examine whether your organization fulfils its purpose and satisfies the interests and needs of its members. Member engagement issues, which I discuss here, can also factor into strategic planning.  In the end, does the union perform as it should - does your scope of services fulfil today’s needs, not those from the past?​


What have our clients said about strategic planning, check out their comments here.​See our articles section for more on planning and member engagement.


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