Picture this: Your board is solidly supportive and providing constructive guidance on high-level decisions, your C-suite is collaborating seamlessly, your line managers are managing their teams to excellent execution and even your entry-level employees are excited to come to work and serve your mission. To top it all off, you know exactly where you need to be in three years, five years and 10 years to make progress toward your lofty vision statement.
What nirvana is this? Since I’m a strategy person, you are probably expecting me to say that what you need to achieve this magical state is a kickass strategic plan. False. Strategic plans are a dime a dozen. Of course, great ones take a lot more time, energy and finesse to build than bad ones; but they are not rocket science and practically anyone with a spare weekend could build one. How many of you have plans that have a primary function of decorating your office bulletin board? Or worse, a desk drawer? If a strategic plan — even a kickass one — was the answer, we would all be living in nirvana.
But we are not. We have boards that fall into operational rabbit holes, C-level staff who shirk responsibility and battle for turf, line managers who do not effectively guide their teams’ performances and entry-level employees who spend half their days on Snapchat.
I have worked with many national organizations as both staff and consultant, and I have seen great strategies fail and mediocre ones flourish. The common denominator of successful strategies — aka what you really need to achieve nirvana — is a chief strategy officer, or at least a dedicated strategy person with some clout. You need someone who can not only artfully wrangle all your stakeholders to build a great strategy with broad collaboration and buy-in, but who can also drive that strategy into the fabric of your organization.
Who is driving your strategy right now? Your CEO or COO? Your program person or IT lead? Even though this individual is probably smart and well-intentioned, there are some fundamental reasons why he or she is unlikely to help you achieve nirvana. Only someone who can give strategy his or her full attention — and who has a few key skillsets — can get your organization there.
I hope to see you at the NonProfit PRO Peer to Peer Advanced Conference, where I will explain more about the special sauce of a dedicated strategy person, what exactly this person does and how you can find one!
Kelly Griffin is determined to make the world a better place through mission-driven work. She develops organizational strategy, leads creation of strategic plans, drives strategy execution, and guides change management processes. She is currently in a dual role at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) serving as director of field resource development and senior advisor of strategic planning.
As director, Kelly provides long-term vision and strategy for developing sustainable funding mechanisms for NAMI field organizations and affiliates. She evaluates and improves the effectiveness of resource development approaches, including the signature NAMIWalks program. As senior advisor, she leads the comprehensive and collaborative strategic planning process to create NAMI’s 2020-2025 strategic plan. She oversees high-level strategy consultants and engages staff, funders, NAMI state and local organizations, members of the populations served by NAMI and other key stakeholders.
Earlier in her career, Kelly led strategic planning, strategy implementation and performance measurement initiatives at large national nonprofits and a government agency. She holds a Master of Applied Anthropology from the University of Maryland and a B.A. in anthropology from Bryn Mawr College.