For most nonprofit organizations, the first half of 2020 was heavily tilted toward understanding – understanding Covid-19 and its impacts to daily life and business, causes and solutions to racial problems, and, how to find certainty in uncertain circumstances. Today, as year-end comes into focus, many questions that dominated the first half of the year remain unanswered. How do leaders focus activities to keep the organization moving forward while lacking clarity from indicators often used as guideposts?
Making Strategy Matter
Making strategy matter happens when leaders intentionally choose activities in alignment with their nonprofit’s vision. Vision – the future state picture of what an organization seeks to create in the world – informs leaders’ activity choices, and, serves as a conduit between the nonprofit and its board, staff and clients. Strategies are the bundling of chosen activities, and not to be confused with goals or objectives.
London Business School strategy professor, Freek Vermeulen, wrote in the Harvard Business Review[i] “One major reason for the lack of action is that “new strategies” are often not strategies at all. A real strategy involves a clear set of choices that define what the firm is going to do and what it’s not going to do. Many strategies fail to get implemented, despite the ample efforts of hard-working people, because they do not represent a set of clear choices.
Given events in the first half of the year, there is a risk that strategies and their underlying activities no longer move the nonprofit toward its vision. Leaders can make strategy matter by taking three steps right now:
- Think Tomorrow – Assure your organization’s future state vision still fits. If the way your organization needs to show-up in the world has changed, it’s time to refresh or redefine the vision.
- Act Today – Even absent perfect line-of-sight into the future, a clear organizational vision enables leaders to review and refine specific activities supporting their strategies. Those strategies that no longer fit the vision, or, require reconstitution of underlying activities must be redesigned now.
- Commit to Activity Reviews – Connecting tomorrow’s vision with today’s actions requires frequent assessment of results and deconstructing outcomes into their root-cause activities. Cause-based performance analysis requires understanding composition of activities that created results, then, assessing performance effectiveness of chosen activities. By understanding if the right activities were engaged in, and effectiveness of strategy execution, leaders can quickly adjust to change outcomes.
Strategy matters when the right combination of activities are selected to fulfill an organization’s vision, clearly defined, designed, communicated and deployed through all employees. Navigating the remaining month of 2020 and into the new year requires leaders to revisit their business activities to assure strategies still fit the rapidly evolving nonprofit operating environment.
November 08, 2017 – https://hbr.org/2017/11/many-strategies-fail-because-theyre-not-actually-strategies#:~:text=Many%20strategy%20execution%20processes%20fail%20because%20the,not%20have%20something%20worth%20executing.&text=One%20major%20reason%20for%20the,it’s%20not%20going%20to%20do.
Dave Coffaro is a strategic advisor, executive coach and author. His areas of expertise include leading organizations in the process of strategy development and execution, change leadership, organization transformation and innovation. Coffaro is principal of the Strategic Advisory Consulting Group, a management consultancy, and co-founder of Atticus, a fintech firm providing individuals and professional advisors with easy to use, do-it-yourself tools for fiduciary-based activities. His new book is “Leading from Where You Are” (January 2020). For more information, visit www.davecoffaro.com
Author: David Coffaro, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org