Navigate Uncertain Times with a Strategic Plan

In times of uncertainty, organizations and their leaders may be tempted to wait and see what happens next (and hope for the best). The risk here is that you are letting other people or other factors shape your direction. Our advice is to take control of your future by devoting time now to create an action plan that positions your organization to succeed no matter what the future might bring.

At Starboard, we created a document titled “Before You Plan – Strategic Planning Advice for Nonprofits” to guide nonprofit organizations that are considering launching a strategic planning process. While we stand by the advice we offer there, if you find yourself in a situation where you need to develop a plan in short order, here are some questions we encourage you to consider as you develop your action plan:

Do we need to revisit the mission and organizational values? – “Revisit” doesn’t mean re-write, but reaffirming your mission and your values can help get everyone firmly grounded in why you do what you do and what is truly important. You might ask, “Has anything about the current environment caused us to reconsider our mission or our values?”

What do we know about the environment in which we are working? – What is our current reality? What hasn’t changed? What can we predict with some certainty (and how will that impact us)? And what do we need to prepare or plan for “just in case”?

Who cares about us and our future? – You aren’t alone in your work or caring about your mission. Who are your key stakeholders, and what are their hopes for your organization and its work? What do they want or expect from you? Finding ways to get the answers to these questions can be enormously helpful in shaping your plan.

Where do we want to go together? – At the core of every plan there must be a shared vision of where you want to end-up, of what success looks like, and what it would mean to achieve your mission. “If you don’t know where you are going, any path will do.” In challenging times you can’t afford to wander. Be clear upon where you are heading and then construct strategies to get there.

What are the 3-5 essential strategies to guide us to our shared vision? – Don’t create a long “to do” list. Choose 3-5 BIG priorities…those strategies that you must focus on if you are going to advance your mission and make measurable progress towards your vision. These strategic priorities become the framework for your action plan.

What is our year-one action plan? – Under each of the strategic priorities, work with your team to develop an action plan for the next 12 months. Action plans that actually lead to action are most often tied to objectives (“how much by when” for example), timelines, staff assignments, and budget dollars.

Is there a reasonable chance of a “game-changer”? – If you think that in the months ahead there is a pretty good chance that a funding or policy change could happen that would seriously impact your business, funding, or service models, don’t get caught flat-footed. Consider the alternative scenario(s) now and sketch-out a strategy, even in preliminary form, for your “what if?” scenario.

If you’ve successfully answered these questions, it is now time to get to work. Rather than waiting to see what happens next—keeping your head down and hoping things turnout alright—you have a plan that puts you in control of your future.

Please let us know if we can be of help by contacting us now. You’ll find more good advice, like this blog post written by Jeff Wahlstrom, on the Starboard Leadership Consulting website: