Strategic road map, not strategic planning

How to stay flexible as an organization amid changing times.

I challenge nonprofits to stop the ritualistic process of strategic planning because the “usual” process rarely ever leads to “unusual” solutions. Solutions that are rooted in innovative thinking that can transform programs, raising money or simply raising awareness.

Today’s strategic planning too often starts with expected inputs from expected people that lead to an expected plan and expected outcomes. Too many organizations go through the process to simply “check the box” and get a neat little binder on the shelf so it’s ready to share with membership, board, funders, future staff and anyone that asks — because you’re supposed to update your strategic plan. Too many Executive Directors would like to change the path to strategic planning as it can be burdensome, time-consuming and less than fulfilling.

Change from developing a strategic plan to creating a Strategic Road Map.

What is a Strategic Road Map?

A strategic plan is built upon what an organization knows at the time of the plan being written. But a Strategic Road Map is developed based not only on what the organization knows, but is flexible enough to anticipate the multitude of unknowns that it may face along the way: the changing landscape of funders, new board members, staff changes, a less than robust economy and more.

Consider this metaphor that illustrates my point: you “plan” to drive from coast to coast on a certain route in a certain amount of time based on what you know when you planned your trip. Conversely, using a road map, you still want to go coast to coast in a certain amount of time, but you know you will face obstacles: weather, construction and traffic that will force you to change your plans as you drive in a manner that best enables you to get around the obstacles so you can complete your journey.

Grounding Your Process

I want to be clear: the fundamental need for a Strategic Road Map is critical. But identifying, prioritizing and actionalizing strategic priorities must start in a different manner so the end result takes organizations in a different direction.

So, innovate and use a Strategic Road Map process – a process grounded in objectives but open to react to the shifts any nonprofit faces in any given day.

Now, more than ever, nonprofit organizations of every size, shape and type have to consider taking a different approach because they must find different answers in terms of how they serve, who they serve and how they will secure sustainable funding to continue to serve.

Strategic planning is easy. It’s safe. It’s what organizations know. But embracing the same old strategic planning process won’t get your organization to new places. It’s time to for your organization to create a more innovative approach; a more responsive approach to help it achieve its goals. It’s time to create your Strategic Road Map.