The Strategy Screen

An essential component of La Piana Consulting’s Real-Time Strategic Planning process, the Strategy Screen is a simple, powerful tool for decision making. Developed prior to tackling a big strategic question, the strategy screen makes explicit the criteria that your organization will use to choose a particular strategy or course of action.

Although each organization’s Strategy Screen will be different, every nonprofit should insist that any new strategy be consistent with its mission and build upon or reinforce its competitive advantage (as shown in the sample below). Other criteria may include conditions related to maintaining quality of services, measuring results, financial sustainability, standing or reputation in the community, etc.

Sample Strategy Screen Criteria

1. Does it help us advance our mission of [XYZ]? How?

2. Does it leverage and/or enhance our competitive advantage? How?

3. Do we have the organizational capacity (e.g., staff, volunteers, funds) to implement it?

4. Can we pay for it? Does it pay for itself (fees, earned revenue), or can we raise funds to pay for it?

5. Are we the best organization to take this on? Why?

Your strategy team can simply discuss strategic options relative to the specific criteria, or assign a ranking or score to compare the relative values of a number of possible options. In either case, it is important to remember that the Strategy Screen is not written in stone; it may be violated if the organization determines that (and can articulate explicitly why) a strategy that does not meet the criteria is still worth pursuing. Criteria may also be changed over time as your organization evolves.

In the end, the process of working through the criteria is just as important as the resulting decision because it not only challenges your thinking and forces you to consciously examine your choice of action, but can also help to bring others along in embracing strategic decisions.

To make the best use of the Strategy Screen, make sure that your organization has done the work of identifying its Big Question. To learn more, read The Nonprofit Strategy Revolution: Real-Time Strategic Planning in a Rapid-Response World.