Critical Path Thinking for Strategic Planning

Adrianne DuMond

I am always surprised when agencies take time for a strategic plan, devote a day to earnest thinking, and feel stimulated by the endeavor, only to have the plan languish until next year. Oh, there are great intentions, committees get formed and chairmen are appointed. But the results may not measure up to expectations. 

 Here is another approach that might help Boards achieve the results they want. It is called ‘critical path method’ and it was started when project management became a way of planning and executing – especially in the aerospace, construction and software development businesses in the 1950’s.

 Critical path lays out the steps and timeline to achieve results in the most efficient way, meeting a targeted finish. For example, let’s say the Board decided at the strategic planning session to recruit 5 new Board members in the next year. Commonly, Sally may agree to be the Membership Chairman and the burden of acquiring new members becomes her challenge. 

 If we use the critical path method, we may achieve the results with specific tasks assigned, and more Board members becoming accountable. Here are the steps to our diagram. 

  1. Start – Jan. 15  
  2. Sally and committee identify potential new Board members – Feb. 15  
  3. Executive Director and committee host an open house at agency to showcase agency to prospective Board members – Apr. 15  
  4. Sally’s committee meets to identify potential members – April 30  
  5. Committee meets one-on-one with potential members to define interest and summarize responsibilities – May and June  
  6. Board member selectees are presented to the Board, and voted on – Sept. (if summer is dark for Board meetings)  
  7. New Board members meet at agency for reception and welcome- Oct.  
  8. New Board members attend the first Board meeting – Oct/Nov 
  9. Five new Board members attend the strategic planning session

The dates may slip and adjustments be made, but the Board now has a measurable outcome to evaluate its effectiveness and it can celebrate if completion is a success.

 If you have any engineers on your Board they will feel right at home using this method. But I have found that many professions embrace it, once they try it.

Author: Adrianne DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org