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 — and she has a passion for strategy!
Kelly has been a trusted advisor and thought partner of C-suite leaders, Board members and department heads while helping complicated organizations navigate significant strategy and culture changes. She is gifted in crafting organizational strategy, leading teams through the process of creating strategic plans and performance measures, driving strategy execution, and guiding change management. She led processes to identify major strategic shifts, manage subsequent culture changes, and build bridges to successful execution at three national organizations and a government agency.
Kelly was most recently in a dual role at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) serving as Senior Advisor of Strategic Planning and Director of Field Resource Development. As Senior Advisor, she led a comprehensive and collaborative process to create NAMI’s 2020-2025 Strategic Plan. As Director, she created vision and strategies for developing, evaluating and improving sustainable funding mechanisms for field affiliates. She held strategy positions at KaBOOM!, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and AARP earlier in her career.