Over the last year, Partners for Impact has been submitting proposals for organizational strategic planning to a variety of nonprofit human service agencies. We have not been getting many of these gigs. While disappointing, the reason recently became clear when one organization said they really wanted a more “traditional” approach to strategic planning. 

I went back and looked at some of the Requests for Proposals where we submitted a proposal. Many of them had a clear set of activities that they wanted to complete including a review of the mission and vision, a SWOT analysis, and the completion of a document with specific strategies and SMART objectives. They also wanted the document to be time bound for the next three years and, often specified, the need for a board and/or staff retreat to be a major part of completing the process.  

At Partners for Impact we are committed to living into and leading with our values. We want our clients and prospective clients to understand who we are and how we live into those values. We have learned that if we are not up front with who we are and how we work there is a potential for a mismatch in the consultant/client relationship that can undermine the desired deliverable. That said, we have knowingly challenged some of these “traditional” elements of the strategic planning process while completing proposals in order to share our values and educate organizations about alternative approaches to strategic planning that may actually help them solve the underlying challenges they are trying to address. 

All of this has resulted in a series of blog posts that is designed to help nonprofit and government human service organizations understand why the “traditional’ approach to strategic planning is not appropriate for the complex world we live in. The traditional approach that assumes that the plan you create in the next three to four months will guide you for the next three years is risky. It set the stage for inflexibility and, ultimately, ineffectiveness.