Strategic planning essentially answers the questions, "Where are we now?", "Where should we go?", and "How do we get there?" In order for the resulting answers to be actionable and meaningful, all of the different stakeholders must be aligned around these answers.
There are well-known best practices for doing strategic planning for organizations. We are facing a bigger, more exciting challenge: How do we do strategic planning for a movement?
Motivation and Philosophy
Why take on such a vast undertaking?
First, because we should. There are already a number of organizations in place that serve the movement. These include the Wikimedia Foundation and the Wikimedia Chapters. These organizations need to do their own planning, but their planning should be guided by the goals of the movement as a whole, because the decisions they make and actions they take will impact everyone else in the community. Furthermore, the community as a whole would benefit from a clear, collective vision for where we want to go and how we plan to get there. In an ideal world, there would be an integrated planning process that would meet both the overall and individual needs of the different stakeholders.
Second, because we can. We have an opportunity to do something that's never been done before, because we understand how to collaborate at scale.
The opportunities are vast, and there are some risks as well. We need to make sure that the process and the plan are owned by all of us. This does not mean that some small group does all the work and makes all the decisions while occasionally asking for feedback. This means that the process is flexible and forkable, and that the work happens transparently in an open and inviting space.
We also need to make sure that we deliver results. There can and should be an on-going conversation about the details of this process, but we can't wait until we all agree on everything before moving forward. We have to be both open and agile, meeting our individual needs, being thoughtful and deliberative, and at the same time, moving to action. This means that the process needs to be highly iterative, and that it needs to account for the specific needs of individual stakeholders.
Open Community Process
In an ideal "Wiki world," it would be enough to put up the pages:
and give people time to populate these pages via an emergent, community process. These pages exist now, and we want this to start happening. In order for this to happen, we need to create an open, welcoming space for this conversation. Specific challenges include:
- How do we lower barriers of participation to this process (e.g. language, accessibility, etc.), so that we hear from everyone we need to hear from?
- How do we get the information we need in order to make good decisions?
- How do we assure that recommendations are well thought-out, relevant, and timely?
- How do we make sure that the needs of the different stakeholders are met?
We expect processes to emerge for dealing with these challenges. We further expect these processes to be captured here so that they can be replicated and refined. We hope that the 2009-2010 planning process will result in a space and processes that could be continued on an ongoing basis.
This wiki is the hub for collecting, analyzing, and synthesizing information relevant to strategic planning. We will also write the plan and related documents on this Wiki.
This should be an inviting, productive space. In this vein, we will do our best to abide by our community principles.
We want to be as multilingual as possible in order to maximize participation. This means empowering people to do their work in as many languages as possible and building enough lead-time into the process so that documents can be translated. The strategic plan will be written in English and translated. Interim documents (for example, proposals, recommendations, etc.) can be written in any language and should be translated into as many languages as possible.
We don't want to replicate information or conversations that are already happening. Instead, we hope that this wiki will serve as a landing point with original discussions and with pointers to discussions that have happened or that are happening elsewhere.
The more people who contribute to this process, the more meaningful it will be. We strongly encourage people to participate, and we will be thoughtful about ways to get more people engaged.
A critical role will be living in and maintaining this space. In this vein, we invite people to be hosts of this space and this process.
We have defined a relatively linear process with a number of different phases; each phase is designed to take place within a specific time period and is meant to yield a certain product (report or set of recommendations) which will be used in the subsequent phase of work. We chose the deadlines based on the goal of developing a five year strategic plan by July 2010, while recognizing that this is a process that could (and maybe should!) go on ad infinitim.
What this means is that, just because we have established this timeline and deadlines for different work products, the different processes can be ongoing. For example, there will be a "deep dive" period where we will form small task forces to deeply explore various topics. One role of these task forces will be to evaluate relevant proposals. However, just because these task forces will be looking at proposals in October and November 2009 doesn't mean that the proposal process has to end on October 1, 2009. We hope that the call for proposals will be ongoing, and that people in the community come up with useful ways to take advantage of these proposals.
See Decision-Making for an explanation of how we think decisions will and should be made.
Timeline (2009 - 2010)
Our goal is to have a five-year strategic plan by the end of July 2010. To help us reach this goal, we have defined four distinct phases of work. The key milestones are recorded at Storyboard
Phase I: Level-setting
This phase starts with the question, "Where is Wikimedia now?" We'll be encouraging stakeholders to engage with this process, and we'll be applying a variety of research methods to gather input and establish a shared fact base (hence the title "level-setting") to provide context for the planning effort. Our goals are to synthesize what we collectively know and point out the gaps in that knowledge. The Bridgespan Group will gather this information and develop a guiding paper for the next phase of this process. The paper will be published on this Wiki on October 1, 2009.
In particular, we will be:
- Creating and maintaining the space for this conversation and work to happen (this Wiki).
- Developing an outreach plan to engage with as many stakeholders as possible.
- Collecting and discussing proposals, and encouraging people to implement what they can and what they care about. (See Proposal:Call for Proposals for an explanation of why we're doing this, and what we hope will emerge from this.)
- Developing a fact base.
- Putting out a broad call for participation on September 14, 2009, which would include applications to participate in task forces for Phase II, starting on October 8, 2009. (See below for details.)
More details at Process/Phase I.
Phase II: Deep dives
We expect this phase to run from October 2009 through January 2010.
We'll pose strategic questions to task forces, which will be formed principally from the current Wikimedia community, but will also include external volunteers bringing specific expertise to certain problems.
Phase III: Synthesis
This phase is expected to run from January 2010 through April 2010.
In January 2010, the community will be invited to take an early peek at the task force process, as this will help inform the "final" recommendations. (Some task forces may choose to continue their work past January 12, 2010.) Once Phase 2 is complete, volunteers will be encouraged to translate the recommendations.
In February 2010, the community will be invited to participate in a synthesis process, which will consist of evaluating and prioritizing the different recommendations from the Task Forces into a cohesive document.
The Strategy Task Force (as described in Task forces) will be evaluating and synthesizing the different recommendations from the Task Forces into a cohesive document. We also hope that this process will start activating the community, as there will be a number of proposals that will require passionate people to embrace.
Phase IV: Business Planning/ Call to Action
We expect this phase to run from January 2010 through July 2010. Note that this will overlap with the synthesis (Phase III) process.
Based on the recommendations that emerge from the synthesis, we hope that people in the community will start committing to the different roles and responsibilities that emerge (in addition to continuing to iterate and refine the work done in phases I through III).
The Wikimedia Foundation, for example, will be developing a business plan with the help of The Bridgespan Group, where it will decide what role it needs to play in this higher-level strategy and how best to execute those roles.
See Process/Phase IV for more details.
- We want to engage as many stakeholders as possible in this process. Process/Outreach is going to be a huge challenge.
- Discuss ideas for how we can evaluate the effectiveness of this process.
- See Process/Proposals for proposals we have implemented or are thinking about implementing.
- For background information on the overall strategic planning process, see m:Strategic planning 2009. For background on this specific process, see Process/Background.
- This process is being heavily blogged by those involved and interested participants. Blog posts should be added here when found.