Managing an Indigenous Organisation can be sometimes like herding cats.
The organisation is constantly under pressure from things that are happening outside but that affect the work. Lack of resources is a root cause of being unable to organise work and systems to create efficiency. If you have a strategic plan, you probably don't have time to look at it until that time when...it's too late?
Yet at the same time, in order to move from day to day chaos, you always need to set a direction, and you need to set it in such a way that it is easy to refer to and to follow.
Making To-Do lists is great. But To-Do lists are simply a set of actions, they do not always relate to goals and bigger picture achievements. Without these, any To-Do list becomes lost in a sea of activity.
If you are clear about your goals they become possible. But in order to make those goals real, you need plans. Once you have plans, you, and the whole organisation, need to work on them – every day! This means they must be practical and visible.
How do you keep your goals and plans front of mind before you get lost in all the little things you have to do?
I encourage management - whether they have a strategic plan they need to make real, or whether they haven't had time to write a strategic plan but have agreed big picture goals and strategies - to put their plan on a page so that it can be kept front-of-mind.
You can do this by following 9 simple steps.
First, take a piece of paper and draw up three columns. Write the titles of the columns, calling them "Goals", "Strategies", and "Key Actions" respectively.
Step two - write down your big picture goals in the first column.
Write down your goals for the year ahead in the first column. Make sure that these are your big picture goals. Don't write "Hold regular Board meetings." That is actually a small step on the way to something else. The big picture goal is probably something like "Create a governance structure for the corporation that meets legal and governance standards," of which holding regular meetings is but one step.
Make sure that your goals are written in such a way that they are S.M.A.R.T. or specific, measurable, achievable, result-oriented and time-based. Make sure that the goal is specific about what you want to achieve; that you can measure it to know when it is done; that is is realistically achievable; that it is result-oriented in nature rather than activity-oriented like a to-do item; and that it is based on a time scale.
In the example above, it probably only needs the addition of when you want to achieve it by (realistically): "Create a governance structure for the corporation that meets legal and governance standards within 2 years."
Step 3 - write down the strategy or strategies by which you will achieve each goal in the second column.
Again, this is not a to-do action item. A strategy is a set of actions that will help you to achieve your goal.
In the above example, a strategy might be "To employ a governance expert to design and implement a change management system completed and implemented by the end of December" and a supporting strategy might be "To schedule a comprehensive Board Calendar by next month and ensure that it is kept to date on a month by month basis."
Again, use the S.M.A.R.T. principles to make sure that each strategy is worded clearly.
Step 4 - for each strategy, write down some key actions in the third column.
Yes, finally, these are some To-Do action items.
However, a word of warning! These are not every detailed action items, but key action items. You and your people are smart enough to know what you need to do around, before, and after these key action items, that must be completed in order to carry out the strategy that is designed to achieve the goal.
So, don't write an action item such as "Email every Board member with the calendar." Of course, you have to do that, but unless you have a particularly hard to reach Board it is probably not a key action item.
Instead, following the example, some key action items might be:
- Draft, agree, complete and publish Board Calendar;
- Negotiate and amend the Executive Assistant's Job Description to include duties on updating the Calendar monthly and reporting accordingly;
- Seek, choose, purchase and schedule Governance Training for the Board;
- and so on.
Step 5 - "publish" your Plan On A Page.
Keep it where you can see it every day, on your desk, by your door as you enter or leave your office, or anywhere that you will see it and be subliminally reminded about it every day.
Hand it out to staff and other people and make sure that everyone understands why you have set these goals and strategies and what their part is, their roles and responsibilities. Place it in a public place and make sure you consciously refer to it publicly at least twice a week: "We are going well, but we need to work on strategy number 4 this week," or "I guess we have been busy because we haven't done anything about X, but we really need to go back to it next week."
The idea is to keep the conversation flowing in the office so that everyone is aware of the targets, realises they are serious, and understands their own roles and responsibilities.
Step 5 - diarise key actions.
At the beginning of every week, diarise the key actions that you will work on in the week ahead. Discuss them with others involved. Work out the more detailed To-Do action steps to get there and work on them by setting time aside in your diary.
Step 6 - at the end of the month, publicly review the Plan On A Page.
Review what you have done and honestly assess whether you could have done better, and what you could have done to do it better. Assess what you still need to do and who should be involved, and ensure that these become priorities in the day to day hustle of other bushfires by putting them into your diary.
Don't be afraid of change. Sometimes, in the review, some of the items may not have been actually achievable, either to the measurement or within the time set. Reassess and make changes to the Plan On A Page and move on.
So there you have it, my 6-step methodology to create a simple and practical Plan On A Page.
Even if you have written a strategic plan, this simple process can help yuou implement that strategic plan by breaking it down or "chunking" it into small pieces and avoid overwhelm. A simple and practical Plan On A Page that distills the complete strategic plan can clarify it for you on a day to day basis and assist in taking action.
Remember – set goals, plan, then implement. The simple formula for success!
If you would like help in your planning within your organisation, contact me by email firstname.lastname@example.org or call our office on 08 9242 2085.
One final thing - this is our last Managing Indigenous Organisations blog article for 2018. We will return in February 2019, so we take this opportunity to wish all our readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May your 2019 be as successful as you plan for!