Monday, December 15, 2014

Reader Results Are In!: Good Strategy vs Great Plan

And the winner is . . . Good Strategy by 63% to 37%!

This was fun and thanks to everyone for playing along.  In fact, it was so fun that I am thinking of turning this into a mid-term question for my grad class on Nonprofit Strategy at Maryland.

Is “Good Strategy” the “right” answer?

It all depends on your reasoning.

A number of people pointed out that the only way for a Plan to be “Great” is for it to be based upon a Great Strategy.  Aha!  This was a pretty good answer.  Holding this assumption then you get BOTH a Great Strategy and a Great Plan.  So those of you who pointed this out definitely get an “A.”

Another “A” answer for the Good Strategy option is from friend and former student Rahul Shah who points out:

“A great plan would be useless if the overall strategy does not guide the organization towards achieving their mission. The strategy is really what incorporates the mission, vision, organizational goals and much more as you know. If you can't clearly zero in on the intended impact, a great plan will not ensure you are working in the desired direction. This is why I believe a good strategy is more critical than a great plan (yet we can't deny that both are still very important!).”

Yes, Rahul, we can’t deny that both are important – vital actually.  Thanks to everyone for participating.  And with that, we are closing up the Blog Shop for 2014.  Happy Holidays to all and I’ll be back in touch in the New Year. 


For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site at www.SheehanNonprofitConsulting.com   You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Quick Reader Poll: Good Strategy vs Great Plan

Which would you prefer?

Imagine that the proverbial magic genie appeared at your door and offered you either a “good strategy” for your future or a “great plan.”

Which would you choose?  Just send me a quick email at robsheehan@aol.com to let me know.  You don’t have to provide your reasoning, but if you do then I’ll provide some summaries of reader comments when I report the results next time.

Please respond in the next week, by December 9!  Thanks!





For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site at www.SheehanNonprofitConsulting.com   You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Satisfaction in The Cause

We work hard and sometimes circumstances beyond our control thwart our progress.  I’m often asked “How do we keep ourselves motivated in the face of all these challenges?”

I hate setbacks and external circumstances that get in my way.  But I try to take “satisfaction in the cause” that I am working to advance.  I wake up every day and remind myself of my mission and then take satisfaction in giving full effort to move it forward.

I also take satisfaction from working elbow to elbow with others similarly committed to the cause.

And to pursuing excellence in all we do.

Of course we want to make measurable progress toward our mission “goal line.”  But we have to take satisfaction in knowing that we are pursuing noble and, sometimes, daring missions. 

After all, it was Helen Keller who said “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

For me, at the end of each day I want to be able to say to myself: "'I have fought the good fight, I have finished my race for the day'.  I have made as much Mission Impact as I possibly could today.  And tomorrow is a new adventure."  Good luck to you in your important, daring mission adventures.


For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site at www.SheehanNonprofitConsulting.com   You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Tug-of-War: Strategy vs Culture (Part 2)

Picking up from Part 1, to align culture with strategy to achieve mission impact, at Bethany College we executed an action plan to build the preferred, new culture keeping the best of the “clan culture” (charming small college) and adding elements of innovative and competitive cultures.

As a result, the distance from where we began to where we were going created a tug-of-war within the college. One end (A) of the rope stood the stagnant-clan culture of 2007 characterized by talking only about mission, normalizing mediocrity, prioritizing loyalty over performance, and thinking we're good. The other end (B) stood our preferred innovative-competitive culture characterized by being guided toward vision, expecting quality, prioritizing performance over loyalty, and thinking we can be great.

Our Guest Blogger is Dr. Ed Leonard, President
of Bethany College (Lindsborg, KS)
Knowing from the beginning a new culture and break-through results would create tension, the board and senior leadership stood firm on our end (B), refusing to lower our aspirations or back-off our strategy.

We also knew we could strengthen the pull on our end (B) through new hires by recruiting the right people who shared the new culture and direction.

We observed how faculty and staff responded differently to the tension. Some responded creatively with the energy to lead the college’s emerging disruptive innovation. Others responded competitively with the energy to shape the college’s competitive advantage. Yet others sadly responded to the tension emotionally, opted out, and left the college. We learned getting the right people in the right seat also takes an understanding of how they respond to the tension of change and results.

Here is what I hope you take away. If you want your mission to have impact, you need a bold strategy. A bold strategy needs culture aligned with it. Aligning culture to strategy creates tension. Don't relieve the tension by lowering aspirations or backing off strategy. Manage the tension by getting the right people on the bus who embrace the tension as creative and/or competitive. Then watch your organization sling-shot forward!


For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site at www.SheehanNonprofitConsulting.com   You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tug-of-War: Strategy vs Culture (Part 1)

Mission impact is driven by strategy. Yet there is very little written on the reality that strategy is driven by culture. As president of a small, independent college in mid-America who embraces the teachings of Rob Sheehan in Mission Impact, I'd like to share from the trenches why a nonprofit CEO should not overlook the cautionary adage, “culture eats strategy for lunch.”

When I became a college president in 2007, I stepped into the story of a 125 year-old college whose enrollment was at its lowest level in 40 years, had tired and weary facilities and landscaping, and struggled through serious operating deficits. Seven years later, enrollment is up 34%, $27 million has been invested in facilities and landscaping enhancements, and finances are stable.

Our Guest Blogger is Dr. Ed Leonard, President of
Bethany College, Lindsborg, KS.
The change that had to happen for these results to occur began with clear purpose and direction. However, after several years of slow build-up, the last two years have seen remarkable breakthrough. That occurred, I would suggest, because my senior leaders and I, with unequivocal board support, began assessing and building a new culture.

Our assessment revealed the current culture was a stagnant, "family-like" clan culture (think charming small college) and needed to be re-energized with more innovative and competitive elements to reach our preferred culture. That is, we had to build a new culture that lessened talking only about current mission to being guided by future vision, that eliminated normalizing mediocrity to expecting quality, that shifted the priority from loyalty to performance, and from thinking we're good to thinking we can be great.

To be more innovative, we launched several new entrepreneurial initiatives and supported skunkworks. To be more competitive, we established goals for key employees and held them accountable.

Even as the new culture started taking shape and we started seeing breakthrough results, tension and push back began to appear. How did we respond? Stay tuned for Part 2.


For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site at www.SheehanNonprofitConsulting.com   You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.