Here are four things you should expect to get from every strategic planning consultancy.
1. Someone to clarify the issues for you by asking relevant–and, when necessary, rude and dumb–questions: "Why do you–? Why don’t you–? When are you going to stop–?" (You know you’re getting this when you can say, "Our planning process is designed to answer Question X.")
2. Someone to guide the conversations you have about those issues who never forgets that the point of those conversations is not merely to air differences but to make decisions. (You know you’re getting this when your staff and Board are presented with a set of alternative solutions, showing the costs and benefits of each.)
3. Someone to facilitate personal interactions so your group can discuss the problem and choose a solution without getting stuck in endless rounds of, "But when we did the auction the first time you forgot to send me a thank-you note." (You know you’ve gotten this when the Board’s bully gets cut off in mid-rant or two people who refuse to work together both manage to contribute to a single point in the same meeting.)
4. An understanding of how to clarify issues, guide conversations toward solutions, and negotiate difficult personal interactions in the future. (You’ll know you’ve gotten this when you navigate around a difficult point at the next Board meeting, and return to the point and get it resolved at the meeting after that.)
The Nonprofiteer has just figured out that her own skills in clarifying issues, guiding conversations and managing difficult personal interactions among members of the client’s staff and Board actually leave her clients without item #4. It’s a lot easier just to stare down the bully on the Board, or say the unsayable thing about the need for Board members to give money, or insert herself between two furious staff members before they can tear each other limb from limb, than it is to teach the Executive Director and Board President (and other staff and Board) how to do those things themselves.
Any tips about teaching those skills (instead of just modeling them) eagerly solicited and gratefully received.