Moving with the Pace of Change
In Convergence: How Five Trends Will Reshape the Social Sector, we challenged nonprofits to consider how they would keep pace with the speed of change. Given the accelerated rate at which shifts in the social, technological, and economic environment are now occurring, it is critical that organizations be attuned to these trends, continually evaluate the opportunities and challenges that they present, and develop adaptive responses and strategies.
Two ways your organization can enhance its ability to do this are: scanning and screening.
Across the social and business sectors, there is growing recognition that traditional strategic planning is poorly suited to today’s pace of change. This is what inspired us to develop Real-Time Strategic Planning, an accelerated approach to strategy development for nonprofits. Whereas traditional strategic planning often calls for exhaustive research to justify a particular action, Real-Time Strategic Planning encourages organizations to continually scan their environment to gather information and identify relevant trends. Rather than a one-time market research effort that only offers a snapshot view, your nonprofit can use continual scanning to get a surprisingly accurate and more immediate read on what you need to know.
Some tips for scanning include:
- Follow trusted resources and thought leaders on blogs and social media to see what they are saying and what is trending in the field in which you work.
- Look across sectors, not just at other nonprofits, but at for-profit or public sector actors doing similar work, serving the same populations, or grappling with comparable challenges.
- Ask clients and other stakeholders what changes they are seeing and experiencing, giving them an opportunity to co-create with you.
Once and organization has gathered information through scanning, how does it choose from among the options and opportunities it uncovers? Creating a decision-making screen, or set of criteria, helps make your organization’s priorities explicit so that when weighing potential strategies, you can be objective about their relative merit and fit with organizational goals, needs, and capacity. An important tool in Real-Time Strategic Planning, the screen clearly establishes decision-making criteria so that your organization can move nimbly to respond to challenges and opportunities as they arise.
Some tips for screening include:
- Develop the screen early in the scanning process, or even before you start scanning, so that the criteria focus on organizational needs and not external influences.
- Include the criteria that the strategy must serve your mission and leverage your organization’s unique strengths.
- Consider other common criteria such as having adequate organizational capacity and identified sources of funding to support the strategy. Other criteria will be unique to your organization.
Succeeding in a Rapid-Response World
Together, scanning and screening form a rapid-response sensing/acting cycle that can help organizations be more agile and adaptive in keeping up with today’s pace of change.