Friday, December 22, 2006

Shedding Old Rules

Two quotes to set the stage for strategic thinking for 2007.

The first quote on the difficulty in letting go from The Accelerating Organization: Embracing the Human Face of Change by Arun Maira and Peter Scott-Morgan ...

"At the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico, mathematicians and scientists in physics, chemistry, biology, economics and computer science look at the mechanisms and principles whereby organisms and other complex systems change and learn. One principle of survival they've observed is continuous shedding of operating rules that cease to be relevant because of changing environmental conditions.

They found that complex systems, whether biological organisms or computer systems, can hold only a small number of rules in operation at anytime. So they must have an ability to shed old rules to make room for the new. Shedding becomes more complicated in systems involving human beings, because their sense of self-worth is often attached to many old rules."

The second quote on laying the foundation for new ideas from Where Do New Ideas Come From? Maximize the Differences by Nicholas Negroponte, Director, M.I.T. Media Lab ...

"The best way to guarantee a steady stream of new ideas is to make sure that each person in your organization is as different as possible from the others. Under these conditions, and only under these conditions, will people maintain varied perspectives and demonstrate their knowledge in different ways. There will be a lot of misunderstanding – which is frequently not misunderstanding at all, but the root of a new idea."

Wishing you a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Why Strategic Plan Implementation Fails

There are several reasons why implementation of strategic plans fails. I’ve listed 4 here. In each case the problem is addressed by designing and facilitating the process in such a way that the issue doesn’t arise during the implementation phase.

1. Lack of board, staff, volunteer, member, partner and stakeholder commitment to the strategic plan. One of the hallmarks of a successful strategic planning process is high levels of understanding, enthusiasm and support of the resulting plan among the aforementioned constituents. The most effective way to achieve this is to build into the process a variety of engagement opportunities: participation on the strategic planning committee, involvement in information and data gathering and analysis, service on other planning committees and workgroups, focus groups, community partner dialogs, and others. Sometimes, involvement of many in the planning process is avoided for fear that large numbers are unmanageable. If clear roles and responsibilities are communicated and if meetings and tasks are carefully structured, large numbers of involved and engaged people contribute to a successful process. For one thing, it ensures a broad range of perspectives on critical issues, absolutely essential to innovative thinking. As a practical matter, we want and need large numbers of people at all levels of the organization and community who are committed to achieving the vision and strategic goals outlined in the plan. In a thoughtful planning process, the strategic planning committee will assess the most effective ways to involve all internal and external stakeholders.

2. Lack of alignment between governance structures (especially committee and workgroup structure) and the strategic plan. In nonprofit organizations, implementation depends on the support and involvement of professional staff, board leadership, other volunteers, members, and community supporters. Organizational structures that align with the strategic plan ensure that all of these individuals can be effectively organized to carry out their work and that they will be moving in the direction of the strategic vision. To the degree that the resulting strategic plan represents a new direction -- in some cases, a radical departure from old ways of doing business -- organizations will discover that many former governance structures constitute unintended barriers to implementation. New structures need to be created if implementation is to succeed. To assure effective implementation, current board committee and workgroup structure, therefore, will need to be reviewed in light of requirements of the strategic plan.

3. The design and format of the earlier strategic planning process does not easily translate to action planning and implementation. One of the greatest frustrations in strategic planning is the failure to complete the transition from the “visionary blueprint” (mission, vision, goals, and strategies) to the concrete plans of action (objectives: who accomplishes what, by when, at what cost, to be measured by what indicators). In order to avoid this disconnect, I have found it useful to do the following: From the beginning, it’s important to describe the strategic planning model in sufficient detail that it is clear to all how and when the transition to concrete plans of action occurs. Begin the conversation about performance indicators earlier in the strategic planning process. The identification of key performance indicators sets the stage for developing objectives that are concrete, measurable and tied in directly to the mission, vision and strategic priorities.

4. Related to the third hurdle is lack of an effective framework for ongoing monitoring of implementation. The strategic planning process presents an opportunity for the organization to develop an important tool for ongoing monitoring of the strategic plan implementation. It’s called the organizational dashboard (also referred to as scorecard). Using the metaphor of the dashboard in a car, this tool is based on selection of key performance indicators that need to be tracked on a regular basis by the Board of Directors. An effective implementation process will link the dashboard monitoring tool directly to the strategic plan, thus providing important support for implementation.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Two Excellent Trend Documents

I've come across two excellent trend documents recently. While the publications will be of special interest to nonprofits focusing on education, both resources will be useful to a broader audience of nonprofit leaders engaged in strategic thinking and planning. The resources are noteworthy because of the content they offer; they are also noteworthy because of the formats used to make the information more accessible and usable. These formats can be used to better organize trend data that you are gathering for your own strategic planning efforts.

The first resource is the book Sixteen Trends, Their Profound Impact on Our Future by Gary Marx. The author highlights a number of key trends, and then shows how each will influence educational policy in the future. Each chapter focuses on one major trend: there is a summary of the trend, implications for society as a whole and education in particular, and then a listing of questions and activities to stimulate further thought discussion and action.

The second resource is the Education Map of the Decade, created by the KnowledgeWorks Foundation to examine the forces affecting education and the economy. The map includes three key elements: trends, which represent major shifts, new developments and concepts and the driving forces that will shape the future of education; hot spots -- trends that the KnowledgeWorks Foundation thinks will have broad impact on education, and dilemmas -- problems that can't be solved and won't go away which require new thinking and new solutions. This map is more than a trend document -- it has to be experienced online. You'll find tutorials on the use of the map, discussion boards, links to additional resources and much more. This interactive website is a powerful example of how good information -- an essential ingredient of effective strategic planning -- can be gathered, organized and presented in user friendly ways.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Newsletters for Strategic Thinkers

There are several newsletters that provide information, and resources that will support strategic thinking and planning efforts. You can subscribe to these newsletters at no charge although some newsletters are also published in a “premium” version available for a fee.

Here is a newsletter listing with reference to recent articles relating in some way to strategic planning:

The McKinsey Quarterly published by McKinsey and Co. Go to: Free registration required. Recent article of interest to strategic thinkers: “Improving Strategic Planning: A McKinsey Survey.”

HBS Working Knowledge published by the Harvard Business School. Go to: Free registration required. Recent article of interest to strategic thinkers: “Failing to Learn and Learning to Fail (Intelligently)”

Nonprofit Online News published by the Gilbert Center. Go to: Free registration required. Recent article of interest to strategic thinkers: “The Theory Underlying Concept Maps and How to Construct Them”

Fast Company Today published by Fast Company Magazine. Go to: Free registration required. Recent article of interest to strategic thinkers: “Demographics: The Population Hourglass.”

I’ll add more newsletters in the future. In the meantime, send your newsletter suggestions to or post them to this blog.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Incorporating Strategic Thinking into Board and Staff Meetings

Recently I conducted a webinar entitled How to Incorporate Strategic Thinking into Board and Staff Meetings. The message: it’s not enough only to think strategically during a formal planning process. While it is important to periodically engage in a formal strategic planning process, there are many other ongoing opportunities for strategic thinking and planning in nonprofits. What are they, how can we use these opportunities, and how can we create other opportunities for strategic thinking? The webinar topics included: How to use your strategic plan to foster strategic thinking by board and staff; Sample agendas and facilitation designs that can be incorporated into shorter meetings; Techniques for information gathering and analysis to support strategic thinking and planning. For a copy of the session materials, email me at

For a good discussion on the subject of the differences and relationships between strategic planning and strategic thinking, see Strategic Thinking: A Discussion Paper by Eton Lawrence of the Public Service Commission of Canada.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Fierce Conversations in Strategic Planning

In the last several years, a number of books have appeared on the subject of how to talk through difficult issues with others. The titles say it all: Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life One Conversation at a Time by Susan Scott; Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss what Matters Most by Douglas Stone; and Crucial Confrontations by Kerry Patterson. The focus of these books is, for the most part, on interpersonal communication with friends, family members and co-workers. But these book titles capture an important quality of effective strategic planning practice. The planning process needs to be designed and conducted in such a way that leaders are able to articulate the most critical issues, choices and challenges facing their organizations, then engage in the “fierce conversations”, “difficult conversations” and “crucial confrontations” to thoroughly discuss these critical issues, choices and challenges and finally come to agreement on how the organization will respond to them.

In an issues based approach to strategic planning, the selection of issues is very important because it determines the range of decisions and choices the nonprofit will consider in the future. In some instances, leaders are already aware of some of the critical issues that the strategic planning process must help them address. In most situations, the planning process participants discern critical strategic issues as they examine the data gathered through external, market and internal assessment conducted earlier in the planning process. I like to challenge people to express their critical issues in the form of questions. The rest of the planning process then constitutes the work of constructing the big answers to these big questions. Identifying the critical issues and choices then becomes the watershed event in the planning process. If we have correctly identified the real issues, we know what we need to have the fierce conversations about. The resulting strategic plan will be relevant. If we fail to identify the real issues, the resulting plan will be useless – answers that may look good but answers to the wrong questions.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Accidental Innovation

In an earlier post, (Wednesday, April 05, 2006, Strategic Thinking Starts Wednesday at 8:30 AM), I talked about the expectation that our strategic planning efforts foster innovation and the reality that innovative ideas often come to us outside of the structured planning sessions. This is explored in a recent Harvard Business School Working Knowledge Newsletter interview by Sarah Jane Gilbert. In the interview, Professor Robert D. Austin discusses his research and practical implications of the concept of accidental innovation. He notes that many important innovations are the byproduct of accidents and that the key is to be prepared for the unexpected. Austin’s key concepts include: “Innovation can't always be planned—accidents happen. Be prepared to recognize serendipitous opportunity, and, Understand the nature of breakthrough inventions in your industry and plan accordingly.”

To access the full interview, go to:

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Difference Between Mission, Vision and Values

So what is the difference between mission, vision and values? The article The Value of Vision appearing at the ManyWorlds website answers this and other questions including:
· Why engage in visioning?
· What are the hallmarks of an effective vision, and how do you go about creating one?
· What are the sources of problems in the vision process?
· How should you implement the vision?
· How does vision relate to mission and to values?
· At what point in the process of strategizing do you engage in envisioning?

The site includes a number of other good articles on the subject of organizational vision (Envisioning Growth, Focusing on A Vision, Lofty Missions, Down-to-Earth Plans, The Vision Thing: Without It You'll Never Be a World-Class Organization, Walking the Talk (really!): Why Visions Fail, Why Vision Matters More Than Ever, and more)

If you’re not familiar with ManyWorlds, you have to check it out. The site bills itself as "the Knowledge Network for Business Thought Leaders". You can create a personal knowledge network based on your interests. When you log in, the site displays updates in the topical areas you have previously selected. You can change your preferences whenever you want to. Manyworlds also automatically generates a set of recommendations for new resources that are judged to be useful to you based on your use of the website and your identified interests. This list of recommendations is updated weekly. Go to:

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

New Ideas for Strategic Thinking

Business Week has just launched a design and innovation quarterly called IN (Inside Innovation). In the latest issue, three blogs were highlighted as good sources for new ideas:

Springwise. This blog bills itself as a “global network of 8,000 spotters that scan the globe for smart new business ideas…” In the site’s Idea Database, there is a section on nonprofits and social cause ideas with some very interesting ideas. Business Week describes it as “A must-read guide for CEOs, brand managers, and anyone trying to create passion in their customers.” This blog is published by John Hagel. At first glance, it may not appear as relevant for nonprofits but remember – we need to look in unfamiliar places for the new ideas.

Blogs are just one element of Web 2.0, a more interactive web experience with a number of new tools that support and encourage collaboration. For a good introduction to what going on, go to

Friday, June 09, 2006

Strategic Planning – It Works!

In a previous post (April 28, 2006 - Elements of Effective Strategic Planning Practice), I described some of the ingredients and qualities of effective strategic planning practice. I just concluded a strategic planning project with a nonprofit that emphasized for me the importance of these factors. They did it right and they now have a strategic plan that inspires them and will challenge them. Most importantly board and staff leadership as well as key community partners are really committed to the plan– which, of course, is the point.

How did this happen? Not by magic (well maybe a little). They did a number of things to lay the groundwork for a successful planning process. First the board established a strategic planning committee. It was led by a talented board leader who is in line to become president of the board in the near future. The planning committee also included a number of board and staff leadership including the executive director and the current board president.

The planning committee took the time to thoroughly orient itself to strategic planning and then agreed on clear outcomes for the process. They also created many opportunities for other board, staff, customers, volunteers, and other community stakeholders to be involved in the strategic planning and thinking process in meaningful ways.

They set aside time outside of the formal planning sessions to talk informally about the emerging critical issues. A number of important insights arose as a result. (Previous post: April 5, 2006 - Strategic Thinking Starts Wednesday at 8:30 AM)

They also made sure that the strategic framework – mission, vision, goals and strategies – was translated into a concrete implementation plan with defined measures of success. In addition, the board aligned its committee structure with the new strategic plan.

All of this in about five month’s time. They did it right and it worked!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Future Trends Resource for Strategic Planning

The study, Future Trends Affecting Education, published by the Education Commission of the States, examines ongoing and emerging trends and explores how these trends may affect education in the United States over the next 20-30 years. Trends are grouped into the following areas: education, demographic, technological, economic, political and social. Though the study was published in 1999, the findings remain very relevant with one possible exception (“Trend 15: Term limits on governors and state legislators are growing more common”). While the focus is on education, the study provides an excellent trends summary that will be useful for a broad range of nonprofits. Go to:

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Tools for Strategic Thinking

Recently, I've come across two websites that have great collections of tools that support strategic thinking and innovation. Both are free sites. The first is Businessballs, a free learning and development resource for people and organizations, run by Alan Chapman, in Leicester, England. The website's aims are to provide free and helpful resources for personal and organizational development. The site includes an excellent selection of hundreds of worksheets, games, exercises, tools and diagrams. Go to: The second website is Manyworlds at The site bills itself as "the Knowledge Network for Business Thought Leaders". You can create a personal knowledge network based on your interests. When you log in, the site displays updates in the topical areas you have previously selected. You can change your preferences whenever you want to. Manyworlds also automatically generates a set of recommendations for new resources that are judged to be useful to you based on your use of the website and your identified interests. This list of recommendations is updated weekly.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Effective Strategic Planning Practice

Strategic planning in nonprofits is most effective when the following elements are present:

First, establishment of a strategic planning committee. If the nonprofit board is serious about strategic planning (and it needs to be!), it will establish a strategic planning committee.

Second, there needs to be a thorough and shared understanding of strategic planning. The term “strategic planning” is sometimes used to describe a range of planning activities. It is important that the process is looked upon in the same way by board, staff and other participants in the strategic planning process.

There also needs to be agreement on outcomes. While it is true that the expected outcome of most strategic planning processes is a strategic plan document, it is also important to discuss and eventually agree upon other expected outcomes. For example there may be a specific critical issue that the board wants to focus on by means of strategic planning. Typically, planning outcomes will include some or all of the following:
· Board leadership and management staff will have a thorough understanding of the critical issues and choices facing the organization over the next 5 years.
· A strategic plan document including a mission statement, strategic vision statement, goals and strategies will be produced. The plan will give special attention to organizational structures that will best support the overall strategic plan.
· The strategic plan will have a day-to-day relevance on management and governance; and
· There will be enthusiasm and support for the strategic plan at all levels of the organization.

There needs to be real commitment to the process on the part of leadership. While there is no one right way to do strategic planning, whatever approach the board chooses will involve time, energy and careful thinking. People will not commit these personal and organizational resources if they are not convinced that the planning process is worth the effort. Sometimes the start of strategic planning process may need to be postponed until leadership within the board and staff have become convinced of the importance of the process.

There also needs to be involvement of many. In order to be effective, strategic planning must involve individuals representing all constituencies of the nonprofit: staff, constituents, funders and donors, as well as other key community supporters.

Finally, the strategic plan needs to be translated into concrete detailed plans of action. Involvement in an isolated strategic planning exercise or a one shot planning retreat is not sufficient. Strategic planning needs to lead to specific objectives which include clear evaluation measures, set on an annual basis by staff, the board of directors and the board’s own committees. This commitment to implementation will also help to ensure that the majority of the board’s time and energy is in alignment with the mission, vision, and goals and strategies contained in the strategic plan.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Strategic Planning: Its Lasting Value

Looking for an inspirational quote to use at the end of a strategic planning session? Here’s one of my favorites: Max DePree ends his book Leadership Jazz with a captivating story about leaders whose actions were inspired by vision. This story demonstrates to us the vital link between strategic planning, vision and the stewardship responsibilities of leadership. It's a lesson for all of us: our strategic plans will touch the lives of individuals and communities far into the future.

In the late fourteenth century, the members of New College at Oxford, moved into their quadrangle, the first structure of its kind, intended to provide for the residents all that they needed. On the north side of the quadrangle sit the chapel and the great hall, beautiful buildings and, as you might imagine, the focus of the life of the college.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, almost five hundred years later, the college hired architect Sir Gilbert Scott to restore the roof of the hall. The roof and the great oak beams that supported it had badly rotted. And so representatives from the college with Sir Gilbert visited Great Hall Woods, in Berkshire, where they expected to find trees for replacement beams. Sure enough, the replacements were standing there, waiting to be hewn out of the living oak trees planted a century before for just that purpose.

An anonymous leader's promise had been fulfilled. The voice and touch of a distant leader had been joined.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Strategic Thinking Starts Wednesday at 8:30 AM

Everyone wants strategic planning to be a creative process that fosters innovation. The problem is that new ideas come to us at the oddest times, without warning when we least expect them – and usually not 20 minutes into the strategic planning session scheduled for next Wednesday at 8:30 AM! What’s a strategic thinker to do?

First acknowledge this dilemma. Agree that we will look for ways to reflect on the critical issues and challenges facing the organization outside of the structured strategic planning process as well. Encourage people to think on their own time about the critical issues that have surfaced in the process and how we could respond to them. Another suggestion: from time to time get together over coffee or a brown bag lunch to discuss a specific issue in an unstructured setting – no agenda, no defined meeting outcome. A facilitator can help with probing questions but again, keep it informal and unstructured. It can also help to invite an outsider or two. Someone should take notes. Any new ideas will find their way in the formal process in the future.

At the risk of contradicting myself, there are also a number of creative thinking tools and structured activities that can foster breakthroughs. I’ll save that for a future post.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Strategic Issue Briefing Papers

Today a major challenge in strategic planning is keeping the number and frequency of planning sessions to the absolute minimum without compromising the integrity and efficacy of the process. People are simply not interested in participating in a process that eats up lots of their time in meetings - even if they see strategic planning as a necessary and worthwhile activity. When people come to a planning retreat for example they want to be prepared and they want to hit the ground running. Here's an activity that can help: the development of critical issue briefing papers.

After data has been gathered and analyzed by the planning team and critical strategic issues have been identified (no more than 5), team members form issue teams around each of the critical issues. Each team is charged with developing a 3-5 page “issue brief”. The brief provides some background for each issue and summarizes creative ways other organizations are responding to similar issues. Developing an issue briefing paper is an opportunity to educate ourselves about an issue – to come to a deeper understanding of the issue, how it is a “most critical issue” for the organization and what’s at stake for the organization especially if we don’t effectively respond to the issue. Developing the issue briefing papers is a warm-up for the decision-making that will follow. It is a way to prepare ourselves for the work ahead – developing the mission, vision, goals, and strategies that are typically the focus of a planning retreat. Preparing and distributing the issues briefs in advance of the retreat saves time at the retreat and helps retreat participants to better prepare. Here is the set of questions I have developed for issues briefs:

· Background: (Why and how this is a critical strategic issue for the organization?)
· Opportunities for the organization related to this issue: (Opportunities for growth, improvement, and/or increased program impact?)
· Threats for the organization related to this issue: (Threats to the organization and/or constituents served — consequences for the organization if nothing is done in response to this issue.)
· How nonprofits and other organizations facing similar issues, opportunities and threats are responding: (What changes, strategies, and shifts in direction are organizations attempting?)
· What major choices, decisions and/or shifts in direction does this issue challenge us to consider? · What other information do we still need in order to develop effective responses to this issue?

This activity can also be an effective way to involve people beyond the planning team itself. If you’d like a guide with sample issue briefing papers, let me know at

Friday, March 10, 2006

Post 911 Increase in Civic Engagement Among Young People

Another good news trend for nonprofits engaged in strategic planning: An increase in volunteering and civic engagement among young people in the wake of 911. Thomas H. Sander and Robert D. Putnam in an article that appeared in the Washington Post last fall (Sept. 11 as Civics Lesson) note …

"After a quarter-century decline of interest and participation in national politics among young Americans, a host of measures turned upward after 2001. Voting rates among 18- to 24-year-olds increased by 23 percent -- 2 to 12 times faster than those of other age cohorts in the national elections in 2002 and 2004. Since Sept. 11, young adults have expressed heightened interest both in "government and current events" and "social issues," according to surveys of high school seniors. And other long-term national surveys show that college freshmen are increasingly discussing politics -- once again a reversal that dates precisely to the fall of 2001. This politicization is especially pronounced among people ages 18 to 21 on Sept. 11, 2001, with a slightly lesser effect on Americans who were between 22 and 25. There seems to be little or no enduring Sept. 11 effect among older generations."

For links to more data supporting and describing this trend, also see a post by Peter Levine in his civic renewal blog at

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Technology: A Critical Strategic Issue

For many nonprofits, technology emerges as a critical strategic issue in their planning efforts. And for some nonprofits, the impact of technology is not on the radar – and it should be. There are a number of resources available to help leaders think through the questions. Here are a few: Charity Channel offers several newsletters including E-Philanthropy & Technology Review ( For excellent resources and links to many more, check out the Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network (N-TEN) ( and TechSoup ( Also see the Foundations Center’s links to nonprofit technology resources ( While you’re at it, check out Networking for Good ( And for a broader picture of technology and communications related public policy issues, visit the Benton Foundation website and be sure to check out the Library (

Monday, February 20, 2006

Boomers: A Strategic Resource for Nonprofits

The aging of the baby boom and its implications for nonprofits is a far-reaching trend that your strategic planning efforts must address. There are lots of great resources available to help you figure things out: A study by the Harvard School of Public Health, Reinventing Aging:Baby Boomers and Civic Engagement (, identifies baby boomers as a great potential source of volunteers in the future. The authors urge nonprofits to start making their pitch to boomers now. Talking To Baby Boomers about Volunteering - Part 1: Third Quarter of Life Passions ( ) and Talking to Baby Boomers about Volunteering - Part 2: Volunteering As a Career Transition Strategy ( will also be helpful in tapping this volunteer resource. Experience at Work: Volunteering and Giving Among Americans 50 and Over ( found that nonprofits can expect an increase in the number of high givers from this age group and confirms that more of this population will be available to volunteer more often.

More good news for nonprofits: The MetLife Foundation/Civic Ventures New Face of Work Survey ( was the first survey to ask boomers now in their 50s what kind of work they want to do. The result: 58 percent of those in their 50s are interested in taking jobs now and in retirement that help improve the quality of life in their communities. The Boomer’s Guide to Good Work by Ellen Freudenheim ( also offers useful insights.

(Full disclosure: My name is Frank and I am an aging baby boomer.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Collaborative Strategic Planning

Nonprofits are showing new interest in collaborative strategic planning efforts in which the focus is on a shared customer/constituent base or pressing community issue rather than development of a strategic plan for their organization alone. Examples include several youth and family serving organizations developing a collaborative strategic plan to offer new services to children with special needs in a region or neighborhood development groups focusing on affordable housing in city neighborhoods.

For many nonprofits – even those who see the importance of planning collaboratively – this will require a commitment to build capacity. Here is an excerpt from our capacity building assessment and benchmarking tool that illustrates what this path to increased collaborative strategic planning capacity would look like over time:

LEVEL ONE: Clear need for increased capacity - Organization does not engage in any collaborative planning on community initiatives with other service providers; sees no value in such efforts.

LEVEL TWO: Basic level of capacity in place - Organization engages in collaborative planning efforts at the request of external stakeholders such as funders; such efforts are isolated and usually short term in nature.

LEVEL THREE: Moderate level of capacity in place - Organization engages in some collaborative planning efforts sometimes at the request of external stakeholders and also because the organization views such efforts as a way to increase its impact; collaborative plans with other partners align with the organization's own strategic plan.

LEVEL FOUR: High level of capacity in place - Organization engages in and often initiates a range of collaborative planning efforts; views such efforts as integral to its success and as a way to extend and solidify partnerships and alliances that increase impact; collaborative plans with other partners contribute to the organization’s strategic plan as well as strategic plans of the broader community.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Strategic Vision versus Status Quo

One of the important and often unexpected discoveries in a strategic planning process is that we are not the organization we will need to become in order to achieve our new vision and implement our strategic plan. Here is an article from the Boston Consulting Group that explores the mismatch between vision and organizational culture. Author Eric E. Olsen begins “Vision creates intent. Culture determines action. Often the two are out of sync. When they are, culture can actually undermine vision and prevent a company from achieving essential business goals.” Olsen offers five principles, most of which are easily transferable to the nonprofit world. For the full article, go to:

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Trend Data that Supports Strategic Planning

Here are a number of trend reports that may be useful in your strategic planning efforts: A report by Lewis A. Friedland and Shauna Morimoto that examines the driving forces behind the rise in youth volunteering at; the latest edition of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT Data Book at; Drivers of Change in the Governance of Nonprofits, a chapter in Improving Board & Organizational Effectiveness, published by the Southern Rural Development Center at; an Annie E. Casey Foundation report that examines the tenure and future plans of nonprofit executives at; a report from PNN Online that examines the state of E-philanthropy at; a study from the Boston College Center on Wealth and Philanthropy on wealth transfer estimates among African American households at; and a study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project that explores the impact of the Internet on families, communities, work and home, daily life, education, health care, and civic and political life at

For links to other trend data, see our Trend of the Week feature at

Check back in the future for more links to trend data and post others that you have found useful for strategic planning.