Jim Damicis, Camoin 310's Senior Vice President, and I are working in Augusta, ME helping the Maine Manufacturers Extension Partnership (MeMEP) conduct a strategic planning process to update their 2014 Strategic Plan. The process has been highly collaborative involving a review of existing information; facilitated work session; listening sessions with organization staff, partners, and key stakeholders; and plan review and revisions. There are several lessons that have helped to streamline the planning process and provide MeMEP with a plan that is suited to their current and future needs. These lessons can be used to guide economic development organizations to set up solid foundations to support economic development efforts.
How to Prepare: Lessons Learned
- Prepare and gather existing information –Gather information, reports, and data that will help shape the planning process and frame the issues. In our work with MeMEP, we were provided with their existing plan, annual reviews, and recent request for proposals to gain insight as to where the organization stands today and what their immediate and long-term goals are. Camoin 310 supplemented these documents with industry data and trends on manufacturing in Maine and the nation to better inform strategic actions and goals. Together, the existing information and industry trends were able to form a baseline, both externally and internally, for MeMEP.
- Communication is key – Ensure communication and collaboration across all individuals involved in the process including key stakeholders, networks, organizations, etc. All members should be informed of their roles and responsibilities in the planning process as well as implementation. Involving stakeholders in the process early on helps to achieve consensus building.
- Know your purpose – EDOs are complex organisms in a constantly changing environment. As such, the mission, vision, and values that exemplified the EDO five years ago may not accurately reflect their goals today or in the future. Throughout the strategic planning process for MeMEP, key findings and components for the updated plan were reviewed and discussed with the management team to develop a comprehensive understanding of the organization’s vision, mission, and values and how strategic actions could further advance MeMEP. Without this collective understanding, the organization could not create strategies to fulfill thier mission. It is important to have these discussions to allow the final product to evolve into an accurate reflection of the organization’s core beliefs and aspirations.
- Hire a professional – If the budget allows for it, hire a professional to act as the facilitator to guide you through the process. In the case of MeMEP’s strategic planning process, Camoin 310 was able to work as an unbiased third party to guide the team through brainstorming activities and revisions. Camoin 310 was able to provide direction and clarity throughout the process culminating in a final plan document.
- Plan for project management – While the strategic planning is centered around coming up with transformative strategies, do not overlook project management. Effective project management creates immense value by informing the process, ensuring deliverables are being met, and providing a platform for progress updates and check ins. Allocating time for regular check ins keeps the progress going and allows each strategy and action to be uniquely tailored to best match the organization’s needs. Whether internal or a hired consultant, a project manager can ensure the planning process is efficiently executed to achieve outlined goals and criteria.
- It doesn’t happen overnight – Strategic planning doesn’t happen overnight – it takes time. While strategies can be fast tracked, ensuring adequate time and pace helps to utilize all available resources and create a comprehensive plan. Work with the planning team to establish a schedule and actively work to complete items on time.
Follow these steps and you’ll be in a great position to create a strategic plan that moves the needle on priority issues for your EDO. For more resources on strategic planning for economic development visit our resource page on strategic planning: https://www.camoinassociates.com/strategicplanning If you have any questions or comments on our strategic planning process, feel free to reach out to Jim Damicis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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