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Be Goal-Focused

What steps can a neighborhood association take to become better organized and more focused in its planning?

This is the thirteenth article in a series on collaboration and conflict resolution. Read the introduction to the entire series here.

All associations need planning to organize their collective effort, focus on priorities, and efficiently coordinate the work to accomplish the goals.  Effective planning is simple in structure.

Mission: The structure of planning begins with the mission or purpose of the association. All plans should be steps designed to fulfill the association’s mission. If your association does not yet have a statement of its mission, this is an excellent place to begin. A meaningful mission statement does not need to be long. It should answer the question: “Why do we exist?” 

A format that works for many associations is: “The mission of the _____ Neighborhood Association is to (insert action language) so that (insert benefits to provide and to whom).

Vision: The other end of the structure of effective planning is a vision of what you want the planning to accomplish, i.e. how the neighborhood will look different when the mission has been carried out with this plan. A good practice is to state the Vision in the present tense as if it is a reality. For most small, nonprofit organizations, this is a relatively short time horizon such as 1 year, 2 years, or 3 years.

For example, “January 1, 2020. _______ is a safer neighborhood with a clean, beautifully landscaped central park, better street lighting, and no graffiti.”

Goals/Objectives/Actions: In a two year plan, if you have a big goal, e.g. lower the neighborhood crime rate, it may be necessary to break the goal into particular objectives, e.g. set up three new neighborhood watch organizations in our neighborhood. Then, each objective needs one or more actions that are the specific tasks necessary to reach the objective. In a multiyear plan, you will usually need to plan the first 90-180 days of actions and then assess where you are before planning further steps.

Timeline/Responsibilities: Each action needs to be assigned to one or more named individuals who will oversee and keep track of progress. The named person may involve other people or delegate responsibility to others. However, the named person should ‘own’ the responsibility and be accountable to the Association for the execution of the task. The action should have a deadline.

Review/Celebration/Course Correction: Schedule a date in the future to review the plan. When the plan succeeds, celebrate! Recognize and appreciate those responsible. If the plan has not yet succeeded, candidly assess what you have learned and what modifications in the plan are needed to stay on course toward the Vision.