February 01, 2019
Strategy is all around us. We are conditioned to look for strategy in the formal strategic plan. Sometimes, however, strategy is embedded in other documents that we don’t think of as being strategic in nature. A budget, for example, reveals priorities; and priorities are the stuff of strategy. There must be a reason that you invest more in one program over another, or that you pursue one grant opportunity over another.
Often, we may carry strategy around in our heads as we make daily decisions about how to spend our time, our social capital, and our financial resources. Nothing is written down, but the sense of purpose and direction is so strong within the organization that we don’t need to be reminded of what’s important.
There are two things to consider when it comes to nonprofit strategy. On the one hand, there is nothing magical about a strategic plan. If your organization is not inclined toward strategic thinking, or if it has no real strategy beyond merely surviving, the formulation of a strategic plan will be an exercise in futility. On the other hand, it is likely that implicitstrategy is all around you. True, a lot of what goes on in a nonprofit is routine: services are delivered and the bills are paid. But every individual program and resource decision is part of a larger pattern.
The ability to recognize patterns, even when they are distributed across several documents or are revealed through a series of behavors or decisions, is the key to becoming more strategic as an organization. If we can’t see it, we can talk about it. And we will never see it if we keep looking in the wrong places.
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