Keep it Simple Strategists: Pre-screening Options Saves Time and Maintains Focus

Strategic Decisions During a Crisis Blog Series

In mid-March everything changed. Many strategic plans developed before COVID-19 became obsolete overnight as organizations struggled to adapt to what one of our clients has described as “the new abnormal.”

A cornerstone of the La Piana approach to strategy development is the strategy screen, a set of decision-making criteria to address new opportunities and challenges as they arise in real time. The strategy screen, which was conceived as a tool for quick strategic adaptation as needs changed, is tailor made for the present moment (for more on use of the strategy screen see Decision Making Basics for These Times). The importance of the screen was brought into sharp focus as the ground shifted beneath our feet and critical decision points began to rise and fall away at a dizzying pace: special funding opportunities; loss of revenue; shifting from in-person service to online; applying for Federal assistance; controlling expenses; the list goes on and on.

A clear set of criteria for evaluating these opportunities and challenges can help but a couple of important questions should first be considered.

If you developed a strategy screen prior to March, you may have listed ten or twelve criteria that dealt with a range of issues, including sustainability, mission-fit, or maintaining a competitive edge. That screen may or may not be relevant for dealing with sudden losses in funding, assessing partnership opportunities in a time of crisis, or addressing health risks (for employees and clients) associated with a pandemic.

Although a full range of criteria is valuable, sometimes we don’t have the luxury of engaging every leader in a full vetting of every decision. While under pressure to make decisions both quickly and with intention, some organizations are developing a simplified “pre-screen” containing a few criteria, thus easier to remember, understand, and implement. For instance, one client recently developed three key questions to create a pre-screen for staff to assess program, partnership, and funding opportunities before passing them along to the senior team for consideration. A pre-screen such as this offers a focused starting point for any decision your organization must make in this moment.

What is one of your top three criteria for addressing key challenges and opportunities right now? Leave us a comment below.

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