A small organization called for strategic planning help. They had once been staffed but had gone through a series of crises. If there were a nonprofit soap opera, they could have starred. Their long time executive director and founder died. The board, used to the founder taking care of everything, was disengaged. They were hit by a lawsuit. The caretaker for one of the properties they owned was dealing drugs from the property.
Cleaning up the mess
A motivated board chair stepped into clean up the mess. She made great strides.
They were just emerging from these series of events and getting themselves back on their feet, when she called to engage in consulting.
We were able to design a process that was useful for the board and the organization. Through conversations with internal and external stakeholders, we were able to get a clear picture of the organization's strengths, perceptions of it in the community and the level of commitment of the board. I designed and facilitated a one-day retreat for the board where they were able to make some important short-term strategic decisions.
When the time is right
They were not ready, however, for engaging in strategic planning. They were out of utter crisis mode but not completely. The organization’s future was still tenuous and the board’s commitment to do what it would take to turn it around was not clear. Thus trying to engage in a longer-range visioning process just was not called for.
Our brains in crisis
When we are faced with a threat or a crisis, our vision and thinking narrows. Our brain does this to help us focus on the most immediate challenge. The threat does not need to be a saber tooth tiger. Our brain reacts to social threats in the same way as a physical threat. Thus a threatened brain is literally fixated on the short-term.
When is the time right?
Timing is important for strategic planning. The organization needs to be stable enough to be able to think longer term creatively. Does the organization have enough capacity to dedicate the time and energy needed to engage in strategic planning? Is the leadership committed to supporting changes that emerge from new and creative thinking about the organization’s future? Or will be the process be just going through the motions?
Strategic planning is a powerful process to shape the future path of your organization. Thinking about timing when you are going to launch a process is an important factor to consider.
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My passion is helping nonprofit organizations and associations have a greater mission impact.