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Planning FAQs
Strategic Planning and The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

In his popular book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni identified five characteristics that can be used to measure the functionality (or quality) of a team. These characteristics often show up in the strategic planning process. In fact, the planning process often reveals weaknesses in the team and helps the team grow stronger by addressing those weaknesses head on. Here are the five dysfunctions and how they relate to the planning process.

Absence of Trust - Without trust there is no truth. To improve as an organization, or an individual, we must be able to recognize and understand our weaknesses. We must be able to gather feedback and hear criticism. If you can't admit your weaknesses to others, they can't help you improve and grow. The planning process begins with a fair and honest assessment of where the organization is now. When that assessment is skewed, it is often because of a lack of trust.

Fear of Conflict - The planning process is designed to create a type of creative conflict. The conflict comes from sharing insights and perspectives that often differ greatly among the team. The status quo is challenged and people are encouraged to voice their opinions. An absence of healthy debate on important strategic issues is a sign of a breakdown within the team and a fear of conflict.

Lack of Commitment - If consensus was required for every decision, nothing would ever get done. Most organizations are not run like a democracy. Fortunately, you don't have to agree with a decision in order to support it. Once a team makes a decision, everyone on that team should commit 100% to implementing the decision regardless of their position before the decision was made. It is not easy to go back to your department and tell your people you are completely committed to a decision you didn't originally support. However, it is impossible to provide that commitment if you were not given an opportunity to fully voice your position before the decison was made.

Avoidance of Accountability - A strong team will always hold its members accountable. The planning process will always include a clear set of expectations that include: 1) What will be done 2) Who will do it and 3) When will it be done. Without this clarity, peer-to-peer accountability will never gain traction.

Inattention to Results - A focus on results is the key to success with any organization. Some results are well defined and easily measured. Others are more fuzzy and harder to pin down. A good planning process forces an organization to define the results it desires. Sometimes defining success is the most important part of the entire process.

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    I have been involved in the nonprofit community for several years as a consultant, a volunteer and board member. Regardless of the type of nonprofit, success often comes down to a strong and competent Executive Director and a Board of Directors that are knowledgeable and engaged in the mission and vision of the organization. Board development is almost always a good investment.

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