Review and Adaptation: The Strategy Edge

“Plans are useless, but planning is everything.” –Dwight D. Eisenhower

Agility. Rapid design. Innovation. The need to adapt governs decisions made by all organizational leaders. Once the business of the for-profit world, this growth mindset has permeated the agenda of the nonprofit sector, too.

The strategic planning and execution process we described last month was popularized several decades ago when the future was much easier to predict based on the past. Today’s global, digital, and ever-connected world requires agility and a focus on adaptive strategy, in which:

  • predictions are replaced by experiments
  • data collection takes a back seat to pattern recognition
  • execution comes from the whole organization, rather than the top.

Strategic plan review

According to the Brighter Strategies resource guide, Strategic Planning: A Step-by-Step Guide for Your Nonprofit Organization, if you do strategic planning right, you’re never really finished. The final step in the process is plan review, which is necessary to improve the strategic plan and ensure its successful and ongoing execution.

Use these practical tips to help guide the review of your agency’s strategic plan:

  • Timeline: Review the strategic plan at least annually, and completely overhaul the plan every three years.
  • Procedures: Gather data on the plan’s progress through stakeholder surveys and interviews, program evaluations, and budget reports.
  • Discussion: During annual review meetings, convene the strategic planning team to discuss the compiled data.
  • Revisions: Ensure the plan’s goals, measures, targets, and initiatives are on track, and revise any of these elements as needed.
  • Balanced Scorecard: Each quarter or month, data on the balanced scorecard measures should be prepared for both senior leaders to review and managers to discuss. Corresponding metrics are reexamined annually as part of the strategic planning process.

Strategic plan adaptation

Adapting your strategic plan is more of an ongoing activity than a final step in the process. Brighter Strategies recommends you adopt a continuous improvement mindset when considering your programs and initiatives. Adaptation is about developing forecasting skills to ensure you can predict emerging trends and adjust accordingly. It requires nonprofit leaders who are equipped with foresight in a world that never stops changing.

Consider the following questions to help you develop an adaptive mindset.

Guiding Question

Long-Term Impact

What is our vision and theory of change? What social challenge are we working to address, and how can we make a difference?
Where will we play? What part of the problem should we work on and where will we focus our efforts?
How will we succeed? What actions and adaptations are required, and how will we measure our success?
What capabilities will we need? What skills and abilities will create the impact we’ve set out to achieve?

*Source: Monitor Institute, a next and best practice social enterprise arm of Deloitte

Next month, Carter is back on the scene, putting on his continuous improvement hat to adapt his organization’s strategic plan. In the meantime, if you need assistance with strategic planning, execution, review, or adaptation, organization development consulting firm Brighter Strategies is here to help. Strategy is our specialty! Contact us today to learn more about our resources and services.