Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Ok Non-Profits, Now Let's Get in Formation

According to the Jossey-Bass Handbook of Non-Profit Leadership and Management, “A strategy is defined as a pattern of purposes, policies, programs, actions, decisions or resource allocations that define what an organization is, what it does, and why it does it” (pg. 256). Strategic planning acts as an organization’s blueprint: the who, what, when, where, why, and how of their existence.

Given the importance of strategic planning, it is difficult to understand how an organization can thrive without it. Even Beyoncé calls for those who cannot “get in formation” to be “eliminated” (Knowles, Beyoncé. Formation. 2016). Strategic planning helps an organization to limit their scope, identify key goals, properly budget and evaluate their impact.

The following Strategy Change Cycle can be used as a guide for organizing and implementing an organization’s strategic plan, ensuring your organization and its members get in formation.

A 10-Step Strategic Planning Process (Renz, Chapter 9)

  1. Initiate and agree on a strategic planning process. This step is a plan for the plan. It should identify the purpose of the plan, what the process will be, who will be part of it, how long it will take. For example, if the mission or constituents of the organization have changed, a new plan to meet the new needs is in order
  2. Identify organizational mandates. This step requires an organization to identify and understand its requirements, restrictions, and expectations. For example, are there any legal restrictions or regulations related to the organization’s mission that need to be considered?  
  3.  Clarify organizational mission and values. What is the purpose of the organization, what is its social value? Defining the mission and values helps chart the future course of the organization, define goals, and establish a unique identity
  4. Access the external and internal environments to identify strengths, weakenesses, opportunities, and threats. A SWOT analysis is an essential component of strategic planning. It helps the organization to position itself strategically by using its strengths, fill in any gaps it identifies through weaknesses, capitalize on its strengths by strategically using them in its plan, and be proactive in establishing responses to threats and any worse-case scenarios.
  5. Identify the strategic issue facing the organization. This step requires the organization to identify policy questions and critical challenges it may face. Analysis of the organization’s mission, stakeholders, operations, and environment is essential to understand strategic issues. This step can be challenging, but completing it helps the organization be proactive in developing a plan to address critical issues, should they arise.
  6. Formulate strategies to manage the issues.  Now that the organization has identified issues, plans to respond to such issues need to be developed. In this step, the organization will propose and establish procedures for overcoming predicted and unforeseen strategic issues.
  7. Review and adopt the strategic plan(s). Once the plan has been designed, the organization needs to establish how it will be implemented. This step may seem obvious, but it is essential for ensuring that the new plan gets executed and does not simply remain an idea. 
  8. Establish an effective organizational vision.  Here, the organization formulates a description of what it will look like, how it will function once it has reached its full potential. This allows the organization to put their plan into context, and understand how it will help frame the organization and its long-term goals.
  9. Develop an effective implementation process. Now it is time to execute the plan. Who is responsible for what tasks? What resources are available and which ones still need to be secured? How will team members keep each other accountable? What is the timeline?
  10. Reassess strategies and the strategic planning process.  Throughout the implementation planning process, it is important to check-in and assess progress and set-backs. Does anything need to be re-worked? Did you learn anything new that needs to be accounted for?

11.  BONUS STEP. Do it again!

Strategic planning is not a one-time process. It should be an ongoing effort, sustaining the organization and keeping it focused. Organizations grow and change, and adjustments to scope and programming will be needed to meet the needs of new and evolving stakeholders (Electronic Hallway, pg. 2).

Using the 10-step program outlined above will help an organization create its operational blueprint, one that promotes strategic and analytical thinking, acting and learning while fostering collaboration and organizational teamwork (Renz, pg. 269).


"2V/ACT Planning for Change and Determining Relevance." The Electronic Hallway. University of Washington.

Knowles, Beyonce. Formation. Beyonce. 2016.

Renz, David O. The Jossey-Bass handbook of nonprofit leadership and management. John Wiley & Sons, 2016.