Category: Strategic Planning

Club Leadership Alliance

Developing and Maintaining an Effective Strategic Plan

Developing and Maintaining an Effective Strategic Plan

The strategic plan is vague. The majority of clubs have them and they were usually developed when a club had a major challenge. This was often when the need to make significant facility upgrades was realized and the club had no funds available. It was when membership was declining, with new members not joining. Or it was when the board was not on the same wavelength as the members on basic philosophical issues like dress codes, golf only attitudes, youths against seniors’ schisms and attitudes of frugality strangling a club’s ability to serve its members. 

One way or the other strategic planning has become the best method of bringing members and their boards together to understand what the club’s purpose is, in other words its mission, so then all members could work together to achieve that purpose in a spirit of compromise to achieve an end goal.

Just what is strategic planning?

Private Club strategic planning is essential to do and is effective for achieving and maintaining club success in our ever changing world. Its process, is accomplished by a club’s Board and General Manager. Don’t let it be done by selecting a special group of older members or past presidents. If this is done, you will get a plan for the past, not for the future. Only the current Board with the General Manager should strategic plan because if the Board develops it, then the Board, future boards and the General Manager will follow it. The Strategic Plan’s continued use, however, very much depends on a club’s General Manager. He or she will be most responsible for keeping the plans alive. 

The Strategic Planning Process

Strategic plan development takes six months to complete. It starts with a comprehensive, membership survey having initial focus groups to identify strategic issues from the members’ viewpoint. Then with survey results in hand, the Board, General Manager and strategic planning moderator review the survey results, do the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats (SWOT) analysis, identify the club’s key success factors, and then develop the club’s Mission statement defining:

  • Who the club serves,
  • What the club provides,
  • What quality level does it strive for, and 
  • What makes the club unique in its marketplace.

Once the Mission is determined, the next step is setting goals with specific action plans necessary to achieve each goal. The strategic planning’s success greatly depends on the plan’s moderator and his/her organizational skills and knowledge of the club world. The club world is very different from the for-profit business world and even the charitable organization world. A club’s members are both owners and customers, one-in-the-same. This complex relationship with each member of the club affects this duality relationship which can make club governance and accomplishing major achievements difficult. This is where strategic planning becomes so necessary as it resolves issues amicably so the club can move forward in achieving its success in service to all members.

Maintaining A Strategic Direction

Having a good strategic plan is one thing, following it year after year is quite another challenge. Almost always the strategic plan was developed to help solve a major club challenge. It was usually very effective in resolving that one thing, and then it, the plan, is laid aside as other ongoing issues arise. The Board that developed the plan, change. A new president is elected who has new ideas on where the club should go. It is at these times that it is most important for management to keep the Board focused on the strategic plan, to keep the plan relevant as a guide for directing the club’s future. Only management can do this, so the General Manager becomes the custodian and promoter of the strategic plan. If a manager leaves for another club or retires, this becomes when a new or refreshed Strategic Plan should be developed by both the Board and new General Manager. It is critical that when managers change, the new General Manager and the Board need review and refresh the old strategic plan.

The most forgotten aspect of effective strategic planning is, “Following it”. This means when every important club decision is made, this Board and General Manager should ask the question, how does our action comply, or agree with the club’s Mission? The club’s newsletter should always state the mission. The Board and General Manager should have an annual planning retreat to reflect on the year past and with a view to the year ahead so the primary strategic objectives for the year ahead are endorsed by the new Board each year. Only by following this practice will the governance and management be effective in leading the club in good and bad times.

Strategic Planning – The Key to Club Success!

From an old Japanese proverb, truth is learned.


“Vision without action is a daydream” “Action without vision is a nightmare”


We in club governance and management have the responsibility to lead. Only through this leadership will clubs succeed.