by Kris Kindelsperger
In the midst of “National Strategic Thinking Month” (yes there is such a month), it is interesting to note that one of the most significant challenges facing nonprofit organizations, their leaders, and their boards of directors is differentiating between what is truly strategic and what is merely tactical.
In our work with nonprofits all over the country we encounter organizational leaders that can execute mass quantities of work, but when faced with strategic issues, often find themselves overwhelmed and unable to meaningfully move forward. In fairness, many nonprofit leaders are so overburdened with their responsibilities that they rarely have a moment to pause and think strategically (but strategically managing workload is a matter for another blog). Is strategic thinking inherently more difficult than tactical? Is strategic thinking a luxury that can only be attended to when all tactical responsibilities have been executed? Can strategic planning become “pie in the sky” work that drains valuable time and resources from necessary tactical work?
The answer to all of these questions can be yes, but it is also true that few nonprofits reach a high level of excellence, relevance, or impact without strong strategic thinking and the ability to codify that thinking in a strategic plan. Conversely we can all think of organizations that tackle their tactic missions on a day to day basis but never seem to be able to move to the next level of quality or to position themselves for future success.
So hats off to National Strategic Thinking Month for causing us to consider the importance of strategic thinking, and to those nonprofit leaders who find the time to do it and make their organizations better for it. Where does strategic thinking fit into your priorities?