It seems that about every three years nonprofits get an itch to update their strategic plan.
But do they realize what they are asking?
They are asking to scan the external environment for changes that impact their approach to achieving their vision. Then they review their current strategies to see if they are accomplishing their mission efficiently and effectively.
But this is worthless unless they put into place some Strategic Actions that are innovative and substantial.
Strategies without strategic actions are just paper weights.
Strategic actions that are not innovative are just the same old thing. Innovative means new and different. Not just what you are doing now.
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
– Attributed to Einstein, Mark Twain, an old Chinese proverb, and Benjamin Franklin
But most, if not all, nonprofits are already over-busy and over-scheduled. How do you fit in something new? You start by taking out your eraser and deleting something you are doing now. Hopefully, that will the be the least effective activity…or the least efficient. You may have to delete your favorite activity, or as author guides say, “Kill your darlings for the greater good.” This is really tough.
“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”
– Stephen King, stolen from William Faulkner, Oscar Wilde, Eudora Welty, G. K. Chesterton, “the great master Chekov”, and originally from Arthur Quiller-Couch.
Strategic actions that are substantial are those that have an impact. If they don’t have an impact, they must either be killed or not started. Why do them? Your vision is the reason why your nonprofit exists. Having an impact is another way of saying they are effective.
There are many good things to do, but not all of them advance you towards your vision. Doing good things that do not move you towards your vision is a common problem. See the Stephen King quote above.
The impact, however, does not have to happen immediately. Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, uses the image of a flywheel that gets many small pushes, but builds up tremendous momentum over time.
So, before you embark on a strategic plan, think about some of the changes you must make and your willingness to make them.