Posted on Jul 19, 2021
Rotary leaders around the world encourage all clubs to undertake a 5-year strategic planning process, which is not surprising considering that globally we have inducted 1,375,684 new members in the last 10 years whilst our total membership remains at 1.2 million. Local reduction of more than 25% in some areas of the world over the same period calls for urgent action to do things differently.

Despite this, when strategic planning is mentioned one often hears “you can’t use that term because eyes glaze over”. Why? Is it because in focusing on strategy we fear we'll lose what we intuitively know holds us together – that is, those important things like service, fellowship and our values? Perhaps good strategy does the opposite and  unites us to find ways to adapt and increase service, fellowship and engagement, and ultimately expanding our reach.

In Rotary, we face an adaptive change challenge which needs adaptive leaders who can foster diverse perspectives whilst they mobilise people to do things differently for improved outcomes. They do so through effective listening and good strategic planning.

Taking a longer-term focus on “what matters most for the future” is critical. Short term thinking is a real no-no with leaders thinking in “my year” terms falling into a trap to be avoided at all costs.

So, what does “what matters most for the future” mean? A good way to identify it is to ask members three key questions:

Firstly, what are you most passionate about in Rotary and mustn’t change, but also what should change? Members invariably say they are passionate about service, fellowship and our common values and, if serious about “the future”, they realise fostering young leaders, diverse membership and new operating approaches are needed.

Secondly, what do you think we are best in the world at? Members usually come up with things like collectively using our talents, time and treasure to do good /make a difference. I would add our networks to that important list.

Thirdly, what do you think drives our economic engine? Members intuitively know that it is fundraising, donations and efficiency that are important.

While the answers to these questions should help identify three or so areas critical to future success in the new environment, the next step is to list against each of these the activities necessary to achieve desired outcomes over time.
It is important these activities include what needs to be done differently and how.
To help monitor progress, measures describing quality, quantity and time are then added and the strategic plan is in place.

Implementation and regular review over 5 years minimum is then necessary.

To further demystify the process and provide key learnings, see Rotary's Strategic Planning Guide and discover more on Rotary's Learning Center
 Article By ARC PDG David Egan