We love feedback from clients, and we certainly love emails such as this note we recently received from a chief executive:
“The board approved the strategic plan this morning. We are grateful for all your work. And I promise to never leave it on the shelf.”
Our goal is to meet client needs. An indicator of success is that the plan is so often used that it’s dog-eared, written on, and referred to in meetings. It, in fact, does not sit on a shelf.
Everyone on the Mollard Consulting team has worked for nonprofits prior to consulting, which means that we get it. We know the barrage of needs that the staff face, the constant push-pull that they endure, and the often-insurmountable odds as they seek to deliver on their mission, despite the resource limitations that exist.
We understand what it takes to operationalize a vision.
Last week we wrote about the role of internal clarity and external input in charting the way forward with strategic plans. This week, we focus on what comes after determining strategic pillars, goals, and outcomes.
The best way to operationalize the vision is to align goals to budgets, assign clear objectives and tactics to teams or individuals, map everything out in an implementation timeline, and create a one-page visual to encapsulate the plan.
Align to Budgets
Strategic plans can often just feel like words on a page if there is no relationship to the human, financial, and infrastructure forecasts. I recently spoke with a chief executive who called to ask our opinion on strategic planning because the two strategic plans done by her predecessor were so unrealistic that they were never used. Sadly, they were staff driven and the board rubber stamped them, rather than using the opportunity to engage the board in its fundamental role.
Certainly, an organization does not have detailed operating budgets for three fiscal years from now, but there should be forecasts. The strategic plan should have some relation to the budgeting process so that all resources are aligned toward the vision of achieving future state.
Assign to Teams or Individuals
While the board has a pivotal role in setting direction and ensuring planning occurs, it is the staff who executes the plan.
We recently completed a strategic plan where the chief executive wanted to use the opportunity to create cross-functional teams for the accountability of achieving goals. The organization had worked in silos in the past, and the strategic pillar and goal statements were specifically designed to avoid falling into those silos. We didn’t want staff members to review the plan and think, “Our team only has to do X.” Rather, we wanted teams to be involved in all facets of the plan — in X, Y, and Z.
The devil’s advocate side of that conversation is that we did not want to overwhelm the teams. These are challenging times and no organization has ample resources of people, time, or money. To ensure strategic plans are fully implemented, we map out all objectives in an implementation timeline broken down by quarters and color coded to corresponding pillars.
In doing so, we give the staff a road map, allow them to determine priorities, and help them see how everything is not only interconnected, but built upon each other and one another.
To give the board the tools they need for proper oversight, we recommended a quarterly review of metrics so they can monitor progress and assist in course correcting when needed.
Create a Visual
A logic model is a tool used to illustrate the overarching direction and impact of the organization. The ultimate goal of the one-page illustration is to guide the organization from current state to future state — from strategic pillars, to outcomes, to impact, to ultimately realizing the vision.
The logic model also captures external influencers that will contribute to, or hinder, the attainment of the stated outcomes.
Strategic planning affords an organization a moment to pause and elevate out. To fully execute on the plan, we must give the staff a clear path forward to move the organization forward.
Article by: Kerri Laubenthal Mollard, Founder & CEO