In today’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous workplace, strategic planning must be an agile process. Three-year—and even annual—planning cycles are not effective when organizations experience rapid and ongoing change. As a nonprofit leader, it is critical to continually scan the environment around you and have the foresight to adapt your plan when needed.

To help your strategy connect the dots in your organization’s people, planning, process, and performance system, follow these steps today—with an eye on tomorrow.

A chessboard with the pieces sitting in their default positions.

Establish a strategic planning team

Senior leaders in your organization will accomplish most of the planning. If your leadership team meets weekly, dedicate one meeting each month to focus exclusively on strategy. Do not deter from your monthly commitment, even if some sessions serve as brief progress reports.

Create a Board committee that oversees strategy and provides guidance to your senior team. This group does not interfere with execution, but rather exists to steer the strategy ship.

Conduct a SPOT analysis

Your planning process, although continuous, will be cyclical, and each cycle starts with a SPOT analysis. A SPOT analysis explores your organization’s strengths, problems, opportunities, and threats. Brainstorm each of these components during a monthly strategy session, and record ideas in writing for future reference.

Ensure the insight of additional stakeholders is captured, too. Invite representatives of various groups—such as staff, clients, and the community—to one of your meetings or conduct a separate focus group and share those results with your strategic planning team.

Determine your organization’s priorities

Define your agency’s unique value proposition, starting with your mission and vision. Based on the SPOT analysis, consider whether these statements are valid today. If the external environment has shifted or your organization’s strengths have evolved since you last created its charter, it may be time to re-write objectives.

To focus your thinking, ask your strategy team the following:

  • Why does our organization exist?
  • If we could accomplish three things, what would they be?
  • What do we do better than any of our competitors?

One way to ensure strategy infiltrates your organization is to get buy-in from vested stakeholders throughout the planning process. Share your priorities with staff and gain acceptance of objectives by organization units.

Develop a balanced scorecard

A balanced scorecard (BSC) is a tool used to manage strategy by tracking action plans and monitoring results. This tool helps bring your strategy from planning to execution by bridging the often-gaping hole between vision setting and goal achievement.

The BSC takes strategic objectives determined in prior planning sessions and assigns measures, targets, and initiatives to each. It is a helpful accountability tool because it lists individuals responsible for implementing each action plan.

Communicate the plan

A completed balanced scorecard is the first written version of your detailed strategy. To communicate this plan effectively, translate it in various forms fitting for different stakeholders. For example, create a serious of visual infographics that highlight the big ideas. Develop corporate, department, and individual scorecards, and distribute them digitally and in print.

Welcome feedback from all stakeholders. Their questions and concerns will only make your strategy planning and communication better.

Execute the plan

Consider how your programs will help to achieve your strategy, in what specific ways your procedures will accomplish action plans, and by what means your budgets will support the initiatives.

We at organizational development consulting firm Brighter Strategies recommend the following execution tips to maximize your strategy implementation.

  • Isolate each actionable element of the plan and identify which departments will address which items.
  • Design a review and accountability system that supports action plans.
  • Empower those who must execute by providing senior leader and manager support.
  • Review results, and reformulate programs as needed.
  • Recognize and reward individuals and teams who achieve strategy milestones.

The time has never been better to get serious about strategy planning and execution. Consider the above steps to ensure your agency’s strategy is coursing through its veins.