If you are looking to make an impact on the lives of the people your organization serves, you will need a strong and nimble organizational strategy – a detailed plan specifying how you will allocate resources (time, budget, etc.) to support your goals. As a social impact consulting agency, Friday has helped clients across our three sectors of focus – education, economic opportunity, and community development – define and implement organizational strategies for charter schools, nonprofits, foundations, and associations. Below is an overview of the most important components that make up an effective organizational strategy.
Vision & Theory of Change
Your organization might have a sizable list of both short-term and long-term priorities. In order to achieve greater clarity about what items from that list will make the biggest impact, your initial focus should be on creating a concise overview of your 3-5 year vision for your essential purpose, unique approach, and desired impact. Going beyond five years tends to be too long of a runway. Stakeholders may lose track and/or other factors may come into play (political, economical, etc.) during the 3-5 year period that could require shifting your goals beyond the 5 year mark anyway. These core goals should be crafted as one-sentence descriptions of the change or impact you’re looking to achieve. Each goal should then be supported by no more than 4-5 strategies which outline the overall objectives that need to be achieved in order to achieve them.
A Theory of Change is a type of map that displays an organization’s short and long-term goals, strategies, and select tactics, but most importantly connects the desired change to specific and controllable action steps. It helps you reflect on key identity questions like: What is our brand gift/what do we offer the world? How do we offer it to those who need it most? How are these things different from our competitors? What is the final impact we care about? The visualization of this map starts with the current realities of your sector or area of impact and ends with you achieving your goals while navigating any challenges and risks along the way.
Goals & Strategies
After defining a clear vision that gives your organization and staff a clear and unifying sense of purpose, goal-setting and strategy definition are next. It is important to set goals that are unique to your organization’s operational realities (i.e. strength and weaknesses) to help you continually improve and grow in the right direction. Your vision should be at the center of your goal-setting process. What are you trying to achieve and how can your goals support that vision? Are your goals aspirational, yet still achievable? For your strategies, do they highlight important areas of growth as well as identify opportunities for innovation? As you construct these strategic pillars, begin imagining how they might translate to specific action steps. This will help with the next step of your organizational development plan.
In order to accomplish your established goals and truly make an impact, defining individual tactics with input from a diverse team – including those who will be implementing them – is critical. The primary outcome of your action plan should be defining the incremental changes necessary to achieve your goals and then pairing them with specific actions your organization needs to take. Identifying outside influences and/or other conditions that need to exist (e.g. politically) to facilitate your action plan is also important. Finally, setting aside time to continually evaluate your progress and revise strategies and tactics will keep you on the right track.
Social-impact organizations and mission-driven businesses require clearly defined goals and a detailed organizational strategy if they truly want to make a difference for the people they serve. Great ideas and heartfelt intentions are not enough to improve social mobility or solve problems. With the help of a social impact consulting agency like Friday, you can better understand the necessary path between your desired effect and day-to-day operations that will make it come true.
Organizational Strategy Tools
Even though organizational strategic planning isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. For example, organizations within the same industry or niche or those that focus on the same social, economic, or political problems can have widely divergent missions, goals, and operational processes. However, we’ve created and made available a few tools that can help you establish the best plan possible. We hope they help emphasize how essential in-depth strategic exploration and ongoing optimization are to success. If you’d like additional help making the most of your resources, or want to learn more about how to mitigate the risks on the path toward your goals, reach out to us anytime.
Theory of Change
Your Theory of Change is a powerful tool to unify stakeholders around who you strive to be as an organization. Reflect with your community on what your organization stands for, your values, and the model you deliver. View Friday’s Theory of Change worksheet on our Tools page.
Goals & Strategies Frameworks
Deep dive into the internal & external factors impacting your school or organization, and evaluate your ability to respond.
SWOT & PEST Analysis
Two tests that can help define and perfect an organizational strategy include:
SWOT – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats
PEST – Political, Economic, Sociological, and Technological
At Friday, we use these tools to dive into how your organization operates, what it does well, what it needs help with, and how to identify opportunities and challenges. While a SWOT analysis is essential, we’d also recommend a PEST framework to better understand how your community and state is changing as a result of political, economic, social, and technological influences.
For organizations operating within education, economic opportunity, and/or community development sectors, political changes and economic challenges have a huge impact on your ability to achieve your goals. The dynamic nature of the issues covered by the PEST analysis makes it important to have an ongoing partnership with an agency who can help sift through what’s important and what might just be noise.
Contact us to learn how our organizational strategy and broader organizational development services can help.