Real Time Strategic Planning in a Rapid Response World
I have been working with nonprofits on strategic planning for the last nine years and I am always changing and updating the approach I take. Usually this involves streamlining and shortening the process. Over time I have developed a simple 5 -6 meeting (OK - with individual committee member assignments in-between meetings) approach to strategic planning that works well for small organizations that want to do an overall traditional strategic plan.
But this approach isn’t what every organization needs. At a convening of the Kellogg Action Lab College of Consultants I participated in a workshop led by David LaPiana, author of The Nonprofit Strategy Revolution – Real Time Strategic Planning in a Rapid Response World. I have been incorporating some RTSP model elements, and I think it has a lot of merit and should be considered by organizations that have already been through traditional strategic planning cycles. Today, we all are looking to solve problems quickly and often there isn’t patience for three year plans. That is the real world. We can still plan for “real time” and be thoughtful and focused.
The RTSP model does a good job of addressing this need and reality.
Rather than one big three year strategic plan, RTSP is broken into two phases:
1. Basic planning elements that can be applied to various scenarios as they occur
2. Strategy formation and implementation that occurs continuously
RTSP provides a straightforward model with this framework of questions:
·Who Are We?
·Where we are?
·How did we get here?
·Where do we go next?
·How do we get there?
In the Who are we stage the detailed planning is very similar to traditional strategic planning as an organizational identity model is developed which has your mission, broad goals, customers identified as specific as possible, budget with funding sources and competitive advantage analysis.
Next a strategy screen is developed. A strategy screen is a set of criteria that your organization uses to choose whether or not a particular strategy is consistent with its identity. There may be 5 - 8 criteria that a strategy has to meet in order to be considered. They may include:
·Is the strategy consistent with our mission
·Does the strategy build on or reinforce our competitive advantage
·Will the strategy break even or create a surplus within a year
·Will it yield a sustained result – not fleeting
Other strategies will be specific to your organization.
Frequently, traditional planning is focused on goal setting,but the RTSP model is focused on strategy formation and implementation which is Phase 2.
Whenever you want to address a big issue you pull out your organizational identity model and strategy screen and start by asking the Big Question facing your organization. La Piana’s book covers framing the question and this is a very important part of this step. From here the planning process concentrates on how you will address the big question – strategy formation, adjustment and implementation.
Rather than a three year plan it calls for testing and evaluating strategies and then developing new ones as needed. The RTSP model calls for continuous planning but the continuous cycle is of phase two only – phase one is the base on which the second phase is built. This understanding of stategy as action rather than goal setting is central to the RTSP model.
If your organization has one big issue you want to address, I recommend that you consider this model. Give me a call, I’d love to work with you either with this model or with a traditional strategic plan.