What is your agency’s strategy? Can you easily articulate your organization’s strategic goals without having to dust off a binder on the top shelf in your office? If not, consider this your wake up call. Without a clear and known strategy, your organization is like a minnow in a sea of competitor sharks, biding its time until another fish swallows it whole.
Developing an organizational strategy doesn’t have to be difficult. At its most basic level, strategy is a general framework that provides guidance for actions to be taken and, at the same time, is shaped by actions taken. Strategy development is a creative visioning process in which staff and stakeholders articulate how the organization creates value and encompasses short- and long-term goals. Strategy development should be a fluid, organic process that is consistently re-evaluated by leaders within your organization.
Shaping your general strategy
At Brighter Strategies, we often talk about the importance of a guiding mission, vision, and values. Establishing these components of your organization’s purpose is the first step in strategy development. Then, developing a general strategy statement based on your guiding principles will be a seamless next step.
- Mission: why we exist
- Vision: what we want to be
- Values: what we believe in and how we will behave
- Strategy: what our competitive game plan will be
Consider the following questions to determine your unique strategy, or to revise your current strategy, if needed. This process should occur at least once every three years, and as often as once a year, to ensure your organization is adapting to the VUCA – volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous – competitive landscape in which we all operate.
- Who are we?
- What do we do?
- Why are we here?
- What kind of company are we?
- What kind of company do we want to become?
- What kind of company must we become?
- What is our objective—what are the ends we seek?
- What is our current strategy—implicit or explicit?
- What courses of action might lead to the ends we seek?
- What are the means at our disposal?
- How are our actions restrained and constrained by the means at our disposal?
- What risks are involved and which ones are serious enough that we should plan for them?
A sample nonprofit strategy statement, based on the above questions, could be:
To grow from 300 clients served to 500 clients served during the next three years by investing in state-of-the-art assistive technology that will enable us to reach an untapped, niche group of adults with severe disabilities in Northern Virginia.
Developing your specific strategy
With your organization’s general strategy statement in hand, use steps three to six of Brighter Strategies’s Strategic Planning Process to continue developing your strategy.
- Identify the organization’s strengths, problems, opportunities, and threats through a SPOT analysis.
- Set strategic organizational goals.
- Determine strategic measures using a balanced scorecard.
- Write and communicate the strategic plan.
Which of these steps do you already conduct in your strategy development process? Which do you need to incorporate in your planning? To learn more about each step of this process, check out Brighter Strategies’s workbook, “Strategic Planning: A Step-by-Step Guide for Your Organization.”
In June, we outlined a practical goals setting process, using SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely) goals. The same process can be applied to goals developed during strategic planning.
Keep in mind that your organization’s strategy requires action and accountability. Remember that binder on the shelf? It is inspiring neither action nor accountability for results! Instead, a well-constructed metrics dashboard – tied to the SMART strategy goals you develop – measures the pulse and vitality of your organization over time by providing a healthy balance of both leading and lagging metrics.
- Leading metrics predict goal achievement and are easy to influence, but can be more difficult to measure; they make the news.
- Example: customer satisfaction rate
- Lagging metrics measure goal accomplishment and are easy to measure, but can be difficult to influence; they report the news.
- Example: employee turnover rate
Albert Einstein once said, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” Keep this in mind when you determine the metrics you will use to track strategic goal completion.
To learn more about strategy development, please contact us for customized organizational development services. Also, join us for our 9/13 Nonprofit Capacity Conference workshop where you can network with senior level nonprofit leaders, share best practices, and discuss how to best use data in your organizational strategy going forward. Chick here for more info or to register!