You Need A Strategic Catapult (And I'll Tell You Why)
Stop endless planning and catapult yourself to your desired future.
The term “strategic planning” is an oxymoron. Formulating your strategy equates to determining your desired future state—for example, what change you want see in your community, what organization you want to become, what type of person you want to be. Implementing your strategy means moving from your current state to your desired future state as quickly as possible.
Planning, however, is incremental. We ask ourselves what we can accomplish a year or two from now, given current resources and priorities. And then we let all kinds of things get in the way. “Well, we have that conference to organize and that will take a few months, then we need a few months to plan for the board meeting, then everyone’s out for summer vacation and the CEO is traveling a lot in the fall and won’t be available for many meetings. Given our limited time, we should plan to make modest improvements this year.” Or worse, we decide to postpone strategy formulation entirely until next year, “when we have more time.”
This is because most high net worth donors and the professional staff of foundations and corporate giving programs forget the “as quickly as possible” part of strategy implementation!
Instead of a strategic plan, philanthropy needs a strategic catapult. We need to climb onto a big rock and catapult ourselves from our current state to our desired future state, literally soaring over real and perceived barriers.
We can do this by changing our mindset and asking ourselves different questions. Once you identify your desired future state (e.g., ending homelessness in our county, increasing the percent of young women pursuing careers in science, launching a new foundation that meaningfully involves all generations of our family—whatever it might be), brainstorm questions such as:
- What is the fastest way this can be accomplished?
- If we were to catapult ourselves into this desired future state, how would we get there?
- If we could only do one thing but it would take us the farthest in implementing our strategy, what would it be?
- What’s the main lever we could pull to achieve the greatest amount of change?
- What’s the main thing that’s getting in our way and how can we eliminate it or move around it?
- There are a lot of ways we can do this, but what’s the best play given current conditions? (Think of plays in a football game—about which I know little, but you get my drift.)
- Are there any changes, opportunities or openings in the environment that we can use to our advantage? (For example, a new school superintendent who is open to partnering with the community, a change in government leadership, new federal funding opportunities, newly available data.)
- Are there people we can involve to help us get there quickly? (For example, leaders we personally know who can open doors for us, decision-makers we can talk to, experts, advisors, grantees.)
We should also look at ourselves internally to understand the barriers we’ve created that get in our way. Then remove them. As an organization, what systems, processes, procedures and rules are slowing us down? Can they be changed, streamlined or eliminated? Are all your people “A players”? Will they help you quickly implement your strategy? If not, take a hard look at them. Can they improve with training and support? If they can’t, they are no longer the right fit for the new strategy, and it might be time for a graceful parting of ways.
High net worth individuals and families can also create barriers for themselves and their charitable goals. I see this most often in a lack of investment in their own capacity, failing to take time to “do their homework” and learn about the issues they seek to address and not seeking out the best advisors to help them navigate their philanthropic giving.
It’s not always easy for individuals, families, or organizations to even ask themselves these questions, much less answer them. But give it a try and do your best — with help from outside consultants or trusted advisors, if need be. Then act on your answers. In this way, you can stop merely creating a “strategic plan” and begin to catapult into implementation.
This article was originally written for and published by Forbes.
© 2019 Kris Putnam-Walkerly. All rights reserved. Permission granted to excerpt or reprint with attribution.