5.6 Future planning
Organisations that plan ahead can usually survive conflict and major changes. They are also better at keeping new plans going, sustaining economic development, and reliably delivering services and support to their members and communities.
“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
5.6.1 Dealing with change and continuity
If an organisation doesn’t recognise when it needs to adapt and change, it will be overtaken by external realities and may lose important opportunities.
But organisations also need to be able to protect cherished values and stability.
Effective governance is about working out the balance between the need for continuity and consolidation, and the need for renewal and innovation. At different stages of an organisation’s life the balance will be different.
Poorly governed organisations often lurch from one crisis to another, have a high turnover of staff and board members, and trouble managing internal conflict.
High staff turnover means an organisation loses important corporate knowledge.
When older leaders leave, they take valuable experience and history with them. Also, new governing members with fresh energy will take time to learn their roles and get a full understanding of the organisation’s rules and issues.
So your governance arrangements need to be able to respond to these changing conditions.
Your organisation may need different kinds of leadership at different times. It may need to rethink its representative arrangements, the way it makes its decisions and the way it communicates with its members.
Having sound decision-making processes, credible leaders, and a strong internal culture of trust and team work provide your organisation with the resilience to withstand damaging crises and changes.
Check-up: How do we manage change?
Apply this check-up to your processes to manage change and crises in your organisation or group. It will help you analyse your current processes for managing change and give you ideas for what else you could do.
5.6.2 Planning: what is it, why do it?
“Leaders may have developed the most ingenious strategy ever, but it means nothing if it doesn’t get done.The better conceived your organisation’s strategy and the more competently it is executed with accountability and measurement, the more likely it will get done and please the community … First Nations usually have limited … resources and selecting the best possible strategies also requires an answer to the questions, ‘What could we do and what are we able to do?’”
(John Pealow, ‘Strategic Management and Accountability for First Nations: Best Practices to Consider’, Institute of Governance, Canada)
Definition: Planning helps you deal with change. It is a way for an organisation to collectively:
- set its governance values and commitments to members
- identify short-term and long-term objectives
- prioritise how those will be achieved
- assign responsibilities for implementation
- track progress and outcomes
- revise and adapt to new conditions
- ensure accountability.
But it can be a lot of work. This means it is often the last thing that organisations and governing bodies make time to do.
So what happens? People get caught up in planning after a crisis or project has already begun, and resort to using band-aid solutions.
Planning allows an organisation to look at the big picture of where it is heading. It helps organisations measure how well they are doing. So even if there is a high turnover of leaders and senior managers, the organisation will have a better chance of staying on track.
Definition: Strategic planning is a way of looking ahead to where you want to be; it’s about the really big things you want to achieve for your members. It is a collective process where you draw up a ‘language picture’ for your future direction and how you are going to get there.
It’s also a way of being on the front foot in making your own decisions about your future, rather than having them imposed on you from outside.
It enables an organisation and its members the opportunity to think through and document:
- what they are doing now, for whom and why
- where they want to head to in the future
- what they need to do to get there
- how they are progressing along the way.
A strategic plan sets out:
- your vision and values
- priorities and targets
- along with specific solutions, strategies and timeframes for achieving each of those.
The governing body should officially adopt this plan at a meeting, and the managers and staff should then proceed to carry it out and report on progress to the governing body.
Western Desert Dialysis’s strategic planning
Marlene Spencer and Sarah Brown explain how the Board Directors of WDNWPT prioritized and developed a five year strategic plan for the organisation.
5.6.3 The strategic planning process
Strategic planning is the role of the governing body, and is best done inclusively, with the support and advice of your staff and members.
The best strategic plans are those that:
- are short
- are free of jargon
- become part of the daily work of the organisation
- are regularly reassessed.
For the strategic planning process to be effective and legitimate, it should involve:
- the nation or community members your organisation represents—they help identify future goals and priorities
- your leadership network—including the governing body, top managers and elders
- your staff—they provide information, advice and analysis
- an enthusiastic coordinator—someone needs to pull it all together
- key stakeholders—they can often make valuable contributions to planning
- a written plan that is consistent with the values and vision of the organisation
- a plan that gives the staff challenging, responsible assignments and realistic timeframes
- a list of actions to ‘get some runs on the board’.
What can we do? The basic steps in strategic planning
This resource sets out the key steps for developing a strategic plan and the specific actions and issues that need to be addressed at each step.
Template: SWOT analysis
Conducting a SWOT analysis can be a useful tool for strategic planning. Use this template to think about your internal and external strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and then rank the priority of each.
5.6.4 Create your own governance development plan
Successful organisations are the ones that regularly monitor how well their governance arrangements are working, make the hard decisions to change what’s not working and then craft their own solutions.
The Yarnteen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation in Newcastle calls this organisational process ‘restless renewal’.
Something as important as a plan for rebuilding your governance needs to be initiated and championed by the governing members and senior management of the organisation, along with your wider network of leaders and elders.
It needs people with real authority and cultural legitimacy to take the lead and make changes to governance, so that the results win the support of your members and external supporters.
To help you work through the process of evaluating and rebuilding your governance, we have provided a governance development and action plan
It is a type of strategic plan, but focuses on setting out your specific plan of attack, your best options, and solutions and tactics for achieving the governance goals of your nation, community or organisation.
The plan contains a series of steps with tips, advice and tools, and also explains some of the basic terms, concepts and issues. You can work through it progressively, or you can work on specific areas you have already identified as priorities for change.
You can use the many self-evaluation tools and check-ups provided throughout the toolkit to start assessing the current state of your governance.
You can adapt the plan to suit your own circumstances. It can be used by small groups, communities and nations as well as organisations
Topic 3 on Getting Started also has some useful tips for developing an action plan.
Template: Governance development and action plan
This Governance Development and Action Plan is based on a strategic planning template that was developed by Dr Ian Hughes at the Yooroang Garang: School of Indigenous Health Studies in The University of Sydney. You can customise the template to suit your own needs, doing it in chunks, or using it to create a longer-term strategic approach to your governance rebuilding
Your plan can start off small and focus on a limited number of specific issues, or it can be based on a wide-ranging evaluation of your governance.
If you carry out a broader plan containing major initiatives, make sure you have a realistic timeframe for implementation that allows several years for the changes to be made. This will enable you to prioritise changes and carry them out at a pace that builds confidence rather than creates anxiety and uncertainty.
Governance rebuilding needs time for innovative solutions to be tested out in the real world—you will probably want to refine your arrangements over time.
So don’t set things in concrete too early. And get feedback on what your members think about the changes.
Murdi Paaki Regional Assembly’s Charter of Governance
In this clip Murdi Paaki Regional Assembly (MPRA) Chair Sam Jeffries talks about how MPRA chose not to become an incorporated model and how their Charter of Governance serves as their guiding document.