I am not a fan of strategic planning. For the most part such plans, however elegant and well prepared, find themselves overtaken by events. Like mission statements and vision statements they use up a lot of time and energy in order to languish on a shelf. Even when input is solicited from a constituency if the question is "What do you think we should be doing?" the most likely outcome of that are "mom, flag and apple pie" answers.
The Episcopal Church's strategic planning efforts resulted in "A Decade of Evangelism" and "20/20" which was aimed at doubling the size of the church by that date. Both were stillborn and then ignored because there was no grassroots buy in.
In the present moment strategic plans are hindered by the speed of change. Five years ago there were no smartphones, devices that are now so deeply penetrated into the world market and culture that revolutions are being run through them. (Some of us geezers will remember that the Polish Spring uprisings were fueled by the fax machine!) iPad and/or tablet computing will change how we process information and book reading will move to digital devices. Cable television, which eclipsed the former Network powers is now being eclipsed by other providers and we know not how that will sort out. Social media is morphing faster than anyone can keep up; by the time Facebook gots its IPO out there it was already being eclipsed by other social media systems.
Oh, and by the way big corporate planning and big centralized "research" are being eclipsed by tinkerers with tools. A 15 year old High School freshman just developed an early detection cancer device that has $50 Home Depot electric meter at its core!
And the relgious/spirituality world is shifting about just as rapidly.
So the one thing we can be assured of if we go down the Strategic Plan road is that it will be useless once it's finished. And our track record just confirms it. So why go there at all.
What we need instead is Strategic Process. Such a process does a number things: it attunes itself to what is going on around it and it deploys resources in small bundles to groups of people who are actually doing something that is resonating locally. Some of what resonates in local areas may be more generally applicable, but the key question is, does it resonate with another group of people in another place?
What counts in strategic process is not the mom-flag-apple-pie of what we "should" be doing, but the true grit of what people are passionate enough for that they are already committing their time and resources to it. Ideally they might never even need Central Funding. While strategic planning creates a framework made up by experts and invites people to come play some defined role; strategic process backs up and publicizes those things that are already working in local areas so that good ideas might go viral within our extended family.
Strategic plans are about control, strategic processes are about inspired collaborations. Gamaliel and Dick Gregory were both correct. If it is of God it will thrive and you don't have to shove it down people's throats they will steal it. I would suggest that strategic plans are born of anxiety and need for justification by having a measurable outcomes. Strategic processess are born of passion and commitment and have no needful interest in measuring outcomes, gauging success via participation not numbers. Plans are time stamped, processess wait for the fullness of time. Plans are more rigid, processes more flexible.
At General Convention I submit that Strategic Planners will be sitting in the HoD and HoB, but the strategic process folks will be on the Exhibition Floor.* If we want to restructure perhaps we ought to have a dual track General Convention structure. On one track will be the governance wonks who will make sure that our Canons and other governance structures are coherent and consistent. That track will have elected deputies and bishops perhaps even meeting unicamerally. The parallel General Convention will be one that gathers anyone who wants to come to be inspired by what others are actually doing to "represent" Christ our world. It will be a place where cross pollination happens, spirits are stimulated, where successes are shared and failures mulled over and doable low-funding needed plans exchanged.
Think of it as a Comic-Con for the faithful. Y'all know Comic-Con, right? 150,00 people spending their own money to immerse themselves for four almost round the clock days of seminars, screenings, gaming, mingling with celebrities and talking about good, evil, heroic quests and the Dark Knight of the soul. People from infants to nonagenarians collaborating in the spread of ideas. I staff Comic-con each summer and will miss most of this year's because of Gen-Con. But imagine all those people, on their own nickels enthused about powerful ideas and metaphors, gathering triennially to talk about our life in Christ. THAT is strategic process.
Imagine if our Faith-Con could bring together all the doers and inspirers for even four days and just let them mingle. God knows what might happen!
* One of the shames of the past few conventions is that exhibition hours hardly allow time for people to mingle and process on the floor. As an exhibitor at three GC's I have been appalled at the operative notion that restricts exhibitors in order to keep people in their seats on the floor. That is testimony enough to the paucity of our process.