Ensuring plans are responsive and agile is critical to success in today’s unpredictable and fast-changing world.
In our work supporting charities with strategic planning, we’ve found that the most successful organisations have a clear, articulated strategic direction, but then review and adapt it regularly. Overnight, new opportunities and threats can arise and the organisations that can identify and respond to them quickly are more likely to survive, thrive and grow.
Here are my five top tips how to keep your strategy agile and responsive.
1. Continuously gather data, review it and act upon it
Charities should develop systems and processes to collect up-to-date information and insights from intelligence, including opportunities and threats emerging in the external environment. Specifically, your charity should make a point of regularly reviewing data about beneficiaries and donors, and their changing needs and be prepared to adjust activities in light of this. You should check that the assumptions your strategic plan were built upon haven’t been invalidated by new data.
2. Align programming, resources and budgets with your strategy
Key decisions on programming, budgeting, target-setting and recruitment should reflect how these activities help you to achieve your strategic objectives. Where you are undertaking programmes or seeing demand for activities that are not aligned to these objectives, you need to decide quickly whether to adjust and update the strategic priorities – or stop doing them.
3. Review processes to help rapid decision-making
Following the completion of a strategic plan, the management team should review their decision-making processes to allow your organisation to change direction and act quickly, if necessary. Boards may also need to develop a process for decisions to be made between scheduled board meetings.
4. Create time to think
A good strategic-planning process should be more than a plan – the process should be continuous and include sufficient opportunities for ongoing strategic thinking and discussions. Creating dedicated space to do this is essential, whether at board meetings, in management meetings, staff meetings, off-site away days, or even embedded in the day-to-day culture of the organisation.
5. Engage and learn from frontline staff
Success is driven by people. Your charity should ensure that your strategy is understood and bought into throughout your internal teams and among your stakeholders by communicating it relentlessly. All the members of a delivery team should then be involved in designing the solutions they will deliver, with feedback on what works and what doesn’t gathered during implementation.
This article originally appeared in Strategy 101, the October 2018 launch edition of our new EP Insights management briefing for social sector leaders. Our aim is to offer a regular, thought-provoking selection of senior-level knowledge and practical advice that CEOs, managers and trustees can make use of to perform their roles more effectively. You can access and sign up for EP Insights at https://www.ep-insights.org/