Four Lessons for Effective Strategy Implementation
Developing sound strategy is not enough — strategic priorities must be translated into action. Here are four lessons from one client’s experience moving from strategy to success.
Effective organizations keep on eye on the environment in which they work, revising their strategy in response to changing times. But developing sound strategy is not enough — strategic priorities must be translated into action.
During our recent work with Grand St. Settlement on their strategy development process, we saw them move from strategy to implementation and execution, while leveraging organizational culture and strengthening staff capacity and leadership along the way.
Here are four lessons from Grand St.’s experience that any nonprofit can use to help turn their strategy into success.
1. Involve staff who will be doing the work.
Engaging staff in strategy development can result in more broadly-informed strategies and internal buy-in for changes. It is also an exceptional opportunity to strengthen staff leadership capacity. Grand St. understood this, making an intentional effort to involve staff not only on the strategy development committee, but in small teams charged with leading detailed implementation planning.
2. Balance strategy work and ongoing work.
Giving adequate time to a strategy development process on top of meeting day-to-day demands is a challenge. For Grand St., forming staff teams helped ensure both received the attention they deserved. Two small teams were charged with developing plans to implement each of its two new strategic priorities, while additional teams worked on plans related to pre-existing projects and major administrative and operational systems. These individual plans were then rolled up into a single, comprehensive three-year plan.
3. Tie plans to the budget and other resources.
Creating plans with no grounding in available resources is little more than an exercise in magical thinking. Recognizing this, Grand St. used its implementation plan to create its annual budget, ensuring that its priority activities would be properly resourced and have every opportunity to succeed.
4. Foster a culture that contributes to success.
Building awareness of organizational culture into strategy development sets the stage for effective implementation. Grand St. used an organizational culture assessment to discover its existing cultural characteristics and identify those it would need to cultivate in order to advance its new strategies. It now embraces both, drawing from its strengths and creating new ones that will serve it well in a rapidly changing environment.