When many organisations conduct a planning exercise, they start with their goals for next year.
They know their organisation so well, "This is what we need to do" they say.
Unfortunately, we believe that this approach actually creates the stop-start phenomena that we see many Indigenous organisations enter into. Each year, there is a new set of goals to "fix" things or to "develop" new services or ideas. But each year, these new goals take the organisation in sometimes subtle, sometimes markedly different directions.
So from year to year, the organisation is taken from one direction to another creating a stop-start culture.
What the organisation needs to do is to take each step progressively toward achieving its purpose for existence. And there is only one measure of whether this is done effectively - "Are you getting closer to your Vision each time?"
So, the art of creating goals is to ensure that your goals help you to do this - help you to get closer to your Vision each time.
The clear and consistent way to do this is to define the measures behind your Vision Statement.
While most Indigenous organisations will have some form of a Purpose or Mission, Vision and Values Statement, to most organisations this ends up being a statement on the wall that people just don't relate to.
The first step is to understand what that Vision statement means in the desired development of your organisation because if it is a Vision that you believe in, there are clues to what you must do to get there. And, you only have to do this once because once you have defined what your Vision means, all you have to do year after year is to check if you are getting to those measurements and create goals to get you closer.
So, let's define your Vision.
Your Vision should be a description of what your organisation aspires to be. It should be specific enough that you can see (envision) what it would be like in the future when you have achieved that description, what it would be like to work there, what benefits it brings to your community, and so on. It should be specific and descriptive, as well as evocative.
When your Vision is a clear description, you can examine it for what it means "in real life".
The best way to do this is to examine it from four different perspectives that make up all organisations Vision Statements. These are:
- From the perspective of the stakeholders that you service
- From the perspective of your people
- From the perspective of your key business processes
- From the perspective of your finances
All Vision statements will have clues as to how these four perspectives will be interpreted by the success of attaining the Vision statement.
First, put yourself in the perspective of the people you serve and ask "When XYZ Organisation has successfully attained its Vision, what will I (as a person it serves) think of it, feel about it and engage with it?"
Describe that point of successfully attaining the Vision in terms of how that is seen by the people you serve.
Is the organisation totally responsive to "my" needs? Do I feel that "I" have a voice? Is it being effective in the way that it benefits "me"?
Ask these and similar questions depending on how you see the people you serve will engage with you. As you ask these questions to describe the success of attaining the Vision from their point of view, clues as to what you must do to get there will emerge.
For example, if attaining the Vision means that beneficiary stakeholders feel that they are heard more, then one of your goals must surely be to find ways to gather community opinions more frequently and to respond to them effectively.
Then, do the same from the perspective of your people - your employees and internal stakeholders. Ask "When XYZ Organisation has attained its Vision, what will I (as an employee or member) get from the organisation?"
Will it develop "me" as a person, make "me" feel good about what "I'm" doing, give "me" a sense of purpose? Will "I" feel like a valued team member? Will it make "me" respond "myself" so that "I" give as good as "I" get?
Remember to see it from their perspective - and once again the answers you get will help you define what successfully attaining the Vision means, and what goals to design to make sure that your people and internal stakeholders are involved and engaged.
Once again, do the same from the perspective of your key business processes, but this time ask "when we have attained our Vision, what are the key business processes that we must totally excel at, that got us there and will keep us there?"
The answers to this question will define for you the tools, processes and procedures that you must excel at in order to attain the Vision so that you can create goals to make sure this is so. Whether these key business processes are administrative like accounting or productive like service delivery - they are the ones you need goals to develop over time.
Finally, look at your Vision from the perspective of your finances.
"When we have successfully attained our Vision, what will our finances look like?"
What will your income streams be? What about your cash flow? What will your assets and liabilities look like? How will your finances be organised and what investments will you have?
Of course, you need to be realistic - even the most successful not-for-profit is lacking in some resources. But look at this finance perspective so that you can write goals that you need to achieve in readiness for attaining the Vision.
Finally, you can write your goals.
Many of these goals will come from the discoveries of defining your Vision statement. Most of them will likely be long-term (3 to 5 years or more) goals.
However, what you can now do is break those longer-term goals into their milestones.
For example, you may decide to set a goal that you will have an in-house staff training program to develop their capability within the next five years. Some milestones that this goal might generate could be:
- Complete a capability matrix linking desired skills with existing staff skills
- Identify and contract an external agency to develop the training program
- Complete the design of an appropriate curriculum
- Write the contents
- Start the first cohort in the program
You can identify the timelines for each of those milestones so that when you prepare your annual Business Plan for next year, you can set the appropriate one-year milestones as goals for that year.
In this way, you have:
- Created a long term strategic direction to get to your Vision
- Created long term strategies
- Identified the shorter-term goals that are consistent with the strategic direction
- Implemented a step by step, year by year consistent approach to getting to where you really want to be - your Vision.
Your journey will no longer be s stop-start journey because each year you will be working on one part of the longer strategic direction and be consistent in your approach.
If you want to work along with this strategy, we have a free worksheet that you can download and it is available here.
While you're there, you may also be interested to know that OTS Management offers a range of free resources for Indigenous organisations which you can get here.