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The strategic plan is dead.  We’ve said it before and will say it again, because a lot has changed in the nonprofit sector in a very short amount of time.  Nonprofit leaders and board directors have seen major funding and governance shifts both on the ground in their communities and around the country and a sense of urgency in fulfilling our missions and building community has emerged like never before.  The static five year, sit-on-a-shelf strategic plan is not capable of addressing these new shifts and challenges and doesn’t aid in meeting our goals.  Achieving sustainable impact looks different today.  It requires a different methodology and a new tool set.

Over the course of our recent blog series “Revisiting Strategy,” Spectrum outlined why we believe that the strategic plan is outdated and incapable of meeting today’s dynamic environment and we introduced a model to more effectively address the ongoing nature of nonprofit strategy.  See our recap below and take a moment to join the conversation.

Going Through the Motions

Why is the strategic plan dead?  In our first series post, Spectrum Principal Steve Zimmerman joined the chorus with many nonprofit leaders. The need to create more dynamic and nimble processes requires a different type of strategy process that addresses the obstacles that static plans face such as such as episodic planning intervals and goal setting.  To more effectively accomplish our mission, we need to rethink strategy formation.

Meet Spectrum’s Strategic Model

While the strategic plan may be dead, there is still a need to think strategically.  So, how do nonprofit leaders do it?  Enter Spectrum’s Strategic Model—a process we’ve used since our start in 2007, which asserts a pathway to address the ongoing nature of strategy. It has no start and, most importantly, no ending.  Our process outlines the way in which strategy evolves and empowers nonprofit leadership throughout the organization to be adaptable and engage in strategic thinking within their organizations.  We say, “ban the five-year plan!”  Discover the ways in which your organization can focus on the long-term impact of programs without an arbitrary “x-year” timeline hanging over your head.

Strategic Issues

We understand.  Banning the five-year plan is uncomfortable, particularly for board members who often like to have the safety blanket of a “roadmap” even if the map was printed 10 years ago.  But with summer road construction, these maps don’t reflect the current reality.  Likewise, five-year plans seldom work when put to the test by nonprofit leaders each and every day. Our final post focuses on how community and nonprofit leaders can begin to step away from past strategy processes and build a more dynamic organization.  Spectrum Principal Steve Zimmerman explores the important step of identifying the right strategic issues upon entering a planning discussion and how many organizations find this early step to be a major obstacle. A series of exploratory questions in four areas: constituent needs, funding trends, other external factors and internal factors can kick start a more detailed discussion.  Understanding your perceived strategic issue as an internal practice BEFORE entering into a strategy process will enable your staff and board to candidly and boldly address the barriers holding the organization back and position you to seize future opportunities.

Sustainable impact cannot be achieved through a traditional plan.  It looks different today.  It requires a different methodology and a new tool set.  As we move on to the next phase of our blog series titled “Strategic Orientation,” it is important to remember where we began.  This blog is dedicated to demonstrating the ways that achieving sustainability requires more than a static process.  We will continue to outline this process and keep the conversation going.  We invite you to join us.