Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The 4th Deadly Sin of Nonprofit Strategy: “Too Rushed”

I appreciate getting the calls, but I don’t feel like I can be helpful by the time they call.

“We have our strategic planning session scheduled for Friday afternoon, four weeks from now.  Are you available to facilitate?”

I ask a couple of questions to make sure that I am not assuming too much.  But almost always, my suspicion is confirmed – the organization has rushed through its strategy preparation and plans to rush through its strategy development process.

Rushing through Strategy Prep.  There are a number of problems with this, including the fact that the organization has usually left out the idea of seeking any input from stakeholders (see The 2nd Deadly Sin).  But it’s much more than that.  How about taking some time to collect some environmental data that will be very helpful once you get into analyzing your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats?  An environmental scan can help uncover important data and can assure that everyone on the strategic planning committee has the same information before you get started.  This does not need to be a dissertation and you can often use easily available government data – if you don’t rush.  And involving stakeholders does not need to take forever.  But at least make sure you don’t ignore key constituencies like staff, donors, and volunteers.

Rushing through Strategy Development.  If you are developing a strategy that is going to guide you for the next five years, then I strongly recommend that you take the time to thoughtfully deliberate what the best strategy is.  I suggest setting aside at least two days for meetings.  And you can only get done that quickly if you begin with everyone in agreement on your mission metrics.  Effective decision making takes time, especially if your strategy committee is using consensus to make decisions – as most do.  And you need time to do some real brainstorming and dreaming about your future.  Inspiration cannot be rushed.  Hopefully you will have some constructive conflict that needs to be discussed and worked through.

Like many of the sins, it is easy to see how so many organizations make this mistake.  Nonprofits are trying to do much more with much less, even more so these days.  So taking the time to prep properly and then deliberate thoroughly can seem like a luxury.  Nonprofits know they need to do strategic planning – and maybe a funder is even requiring it.  But taking the time to do it right is not a luxury at all.  A new great strategy can more than help you make up for the time you invested in it.

Don’t fall prey to the temptation to cut this corner by rushing and end up with a half-baked strategy.

Deadly Sin #5 up next.

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.

1 comment:

  1. This is sooo true! For the consultant, it can be difficult to resist the temptation to acquiesce to a potential client's pleas when you are in need of that contract to meet your cash flow needs. But, speaking from personal experience, taking on a client under these circumstances never works out well. Both you and the client end up unhappy with the results.