Strategic Planning

Strategic Planning Day – births, deaths and marriages?

Some practitioners are announcing the death of strategic planning while many organisations remain wedded to it and hire consultants like us to perform the role of midwife, turn up at the birth with flip chart and survey monkey data and deliver a healthy, well-worded plan. So, should the strategic plan be buried or nurtured?  My observations are that behind any useful strategic plan in the social policy/social services sector are ongoing conversations by board, staff and others that deal with:

  • clarity about the problem the organisation wants to solve or the aspirations it wants to achieve (the what)
  • clarity about the methods for service delivery or the theory of change that dictate how to act (the how)
  • clarity about finance and other resources that reveal the capacity for action (the who, when and where).

Without that clarity, strategic planning day discussions can attempt to gain some of those insights or decisions, but the plan is likely to be part fiction. If the clarity is there already it’s probably a sign that research, future-focused discussions and decision-making is alive and well in the organisation, so the strategic plan is a like mirror that reflects the image of a healthy entity.

I’m inclined to think it is better to schedule these vital discussions as a regular part of governance rather than put too many eggs into the special planning day spectacular.  The organisation’s statements about its vision, values, purpose and so on can be published progressively in web sites, annual reports and all the key communications to stakeholders.  There are not too many people who go searching for stand alone strategic plans. They are not necessarily the best ways to reach those who want to know about the organisation.  What matters are the strategy discussions that foster shared board-staff-member understanding and agreement about the core purposes and directions.  Would facilitation of such discussions be a better way for consultants to contribute? Or are they best done in-house so that capacity for strategy is home-grown?


What Tenants Want

Over the past couple of years we’ve done quite a lot of projects where we consult with social housing tenants.  No matter what the subject, there are some things that come up over and over again.  Here are the four main ones.

They want to be treated with respect.  Often tenants feel that the staff of their housing manager just don’t take them seriously.  They feel that they’re talked down to, their issues not taken seriously.  Often people don’t return their calls, or don’t follow through on things they promise to do.  When they find a staff member who does these things right – listens, takes them seriously and follows through – it makes their lives so much easier.

They want things fixed.  Maintenance is always a hot topic with social housing tenants.  When they report that things are broken, they want it to be fixed in good time, and fixed properly.

They want their neighbourhoods to be safe places.  As the level of disadvantage experienced by social housing applicants increases, so does the amount of neighbourhood disturbance.  Many tenants, particularly older people, report not feeling safe in their homes.  They want decent responses to these issues – support for tenants whose mental health or other issues affects those around them, appropriate police response to incidents of violence, prompt action on the tenancies of serious or repeat offenders.

They want housing providers to work with them.  Many tenants have a wealth of expereince in social housing and in building community.  They have a lot to offer and they would like their housing managers to work with them and involve them in decisions about their housing and their neighbourhoods.  They don’t want to be just a number.

Good tenancy management is not rocket science.  Wouldn’t anybody want these things in their housing?