Let’s begin with some of these hand-to-heart questions.
When did you last conduct a critical assessment of your current strategy?
Where are you in relation to the strategic milestones that you set for the organisation at your last goal setting exercise?
What has your organisation brought to the sector that has “raised the game” for all players?
While it may be true in other regards that “ignorance is bliss”, when it comes to how strategy is working, it is not! Admittedly, there are areas which are not working well that may be obvious . . . such as persistent and/or high incidents of complaints from service users, or the termination of funding for programmes. On the other hand, there may be areas that are going well, or are going “OK”, and which do not scream out at you on a day-to-day basis.
In short, healthy organisations are much like healthy individuals. They take time out periodically to critically and systematically review the key parameters of their health. But unlike health, you may or may not have to go to an “expert”. It may suffice if you have an internal “expert” in your organisation who is respected and skilled enough to guide you through the process. Alternatively, you can look for outside help.
Strategy Assessment - What It Is
To us, it is a disciplined and systematic process of assessing where we are on our “strategic journey”. It has to be rigorous enough to enable us to objectively determine our current status measured against markers and indicators such as:
• Our Vision & Mission
• Our Values
• Our Strategic Thrusts and expected Strategic Outcomes
• Our Goals & Objectives
• Our Measures of Success or Output and Outcome Indicators
• Our Service (Delivery) Model
Strategy Assessment should, as far as possible, involve all key stakeholders who must be appropriately engaged.
Strategy Assessment - What It Is NOT
Strategy Assessment should not be such a complicated exercise that it soaks up significant organisational resources and runs into double-digit months’ duration.
A strategy assessment exercise is also not meant to be a witch hunt! A good assessment exercise should be an uplifting experience, especially for staff members.
When is the Best Time?
Perhaps a question that is uppermost in your mind now is: when should we be conducting a strategy assessment exercise?
Well-run organisations would typically have practices such as quarterly or mid-year reviews that go beyond the operating objectives. Towards the end of each fiscal year, these organisations would typically conduct a “strategic planning” exercise to update their “strategic plans” from which the departmental and individual “work plans” follow. All these are well and good IF the operating environment remains stable with no major unexpected or unforeseen events.
Srategic Thinking or Strategic Planning?
The reality is that we are all operating in an age of constant and rapid, even disruptive, change. Traditional strategic planning, which more often than not extrapolates from current programme or sector projections, falls short in helping us raise our game and get to becoming “distinctly relevant” to our clients and the communities we serve. Ever so often, there is the need for us to take a zero-base approach i.e. doing the requisite strategic thinking BEFORE the strategic planning.
Our view is that a good strategy assessment will help the leadership determine if strategic planning will suffice or that strategic thinking is needed first.
If you have not conducted a strategy exercise in several years - assessment or review – we encourage you to do one now! Being in the position to take anticipatory actions is much better than having to make corrective ones later. Here’s to good “health”!
‘What You Don't Know Don't Hurt. Really?’ is the fifth of an article series from DPI Asia to aid Non-profits in their strategic thinking and provide food for thought and reflection.
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© Decision Processes International Asia. All Rights Reserved. December 2019