Published July 19, 2018
Remember the exultant feeling you and your board members experienced last year at the end of the strategic planning session? You came away from that one-, two- or possibly three-day experience with a euphoric optimism that your nonprofit was destined for greatness. And now, here you are, a year or so down the road, and you are wondering why so little has changed.
Strategy is theoretical by nature. You and your team can theoretically slay innumerable dragons from the comfort of your board room seats during your planning session. The problem for too many teams who have gone through an empowering strategic planning session or two is that their winning strategy remains theoretical. No one stepped them through the process of turning theory to practice.
With the following seven R’s, you and your team can turn the theoretical wins into practical wins.
- General assignments for individual team members, committees, subcommittees and task forces need to be made by the end of the strategic planning session
- Assignments should be accompanied by a time frame (a set date at most one month after the strategic plan and then monthly thereafter) and the executive or executive body who will receive the report
- Usually, the executive director receives most such reports related to the achievement of the strategic plan, although if you have board liaisons to committees or task forces, such board members should also be present with the executive director
- Reports should include progress on tactics being used to achieve goals that help the organization fulfill its winning strategy
- Reports should also include a discussion of the budget and resources required for and used thus far and in the future
- At the end of the report (or within a week), the executive or executive body should revisit the assignments to determine the viability of both the goals and the tactics
- Consideration should be given to the corresponding budget requirements as well as resources needed to complete the assignment
- When reports bring to light goals that appear to be off track, it is time to reconsider associated timelines, targets and tactics. Waiting and watching is not a recipe for success. Goals and tactics that are not working need to be reworked to fit into the winning strategy
- Forever extending due dates for achieving goals becomes counterproductive and breeds complacency
- When it is determined that the goals and/or tactics are impractical, irrelevant, or otherwise unhelpful with relation to fulfilling the organization’s strategy, the goals and tactics may need to be completely scrapped
- With each new goal, give a new assignment that includes both a timeline for reporting on progress and consequences for both success and failure
- At least quarterly, ask your team, committees, board and others involved in carrying out your organization’s strategy to spend an hour considering whether the current tactics are the best possible approaches to achieving their assigned goals.
- Consider newly available technologies that might make goal achievement more likely
- Are there organizations outside your industry that are using innovative processes or technologies that can be co-opted or adjusted to fit your needs
- For every successfully completed goal, answer the question, “what made this possible?” Resources (human, financial, technical), leadership, organizational structure, etc.?
- Once the keys to success have been identified, consider implementing them in other teams working on different goals in your strategic plan
- At least every six months, reconsider the effectiveness of your committees, task forces, teams, and leaders
- If board members are involved as liaisons to assigned committees or task forces, determine if you are taking full advantage of board members’ strengths, networks and commitments. It not, look at realigning such assignments
- Frequently, team members working on tactic-level assignments miss the big picture. This can lead to tactics being moved from one department to another because of apparent availability in resources. Your responsibility to exam the need for realigning your organization includes determining if assignments have been inappropriately shuffled between departments. Work with team leaders and staff to understand why things changed and the best response to realignment needs may be
With these seven R’s of Strategic Plan evaluation, you, your board, your team leadership and even your staff should keep your winning strategy top of mind all year long. After all, you did not spend thousands of dollars and several days to bring your leadership team together for a strategic planning session so that the results can sit on a shelf in a nicely bound, full-color report. Your strategy works when it is constantly present in your organization. These R’s help you achieve this goal.
Todd Christensen, MIM, MA, AFC
Todd R Christensen Consulting