Nonprofit leaders and their boards can spend many months, and thousands of dollars, contemplating, researching, and drafting a strategic plan to guide them into the future. Too often, however, the completed plan languishes on the shelf, unread and unused.
The world’s pace of change has accelerated. Gone are five-year plans. And even three-year plans try to capture too much that can’t be known, much less captured.
In an ever-more-rapidly changing world, it’s critical that leaders move away from a focus on strategic planning as an activity, and begin to adopt a strategic mindset. This kind of mindset transforms an organization into one that acts, rather than reacts.
A strategic mindset can be developed by incorporating strategic questions into everyday activity.
Strategic questions are powerful; they help us expand our options. Asking them strengthens a leader’s ability to adapt to changes and to navigate from the” known” of the present into the unknown of the future. If applied throughout an organization, they foster creative and inclusive decision making.
Consider the difference between these two questions: “Should we expand our program to a new area?” “How can we expand our program to a new area?”
The first is really a yes-or-no question – by itself, it calls for a short, contained answer. The second, on the other hand, invites exploration, adaptation, and possibly big change.
Are a lot like coaching questions: open-ended, exploratory, curious.
Prompt us to question our assumptions about what we are doing, and what we could do.
Can help empower everyone in an organization to find answers and contribute their wisdom.
Asking strategic questions shifts our thinking about the future, from something “out there,” that can and should be planned for, to something “right here,” to be met and adapted to in the immediate now. Leaders, and entire organizations, become more nimble, flexible, and innovative in responding to the inevitability of change.
What would happen if you asked three or four strategic questions every day?
Alex Carter, Your Nonprofit Coach, specializes in helping new Executive Directors become outstanding managers and leaders, while keeping their sanity. Drop her a line at coachATalexcarterDOTcom.
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