Thinking Strategically

I recently read David La Piana‘s book, The Non-Profit Strategy Revolution, and had the opportunity to hear him speak. I have never been one to jump on bandwagons, but I am beginning to think this is one that I want to join – the bandwagon of Strategic Thinking. Before I came across Mr. La Piana’s work, I had often wished for “five minutes of thought,” so that the pros and cons of a given opportunity could be weighed, and thought I was old-fashioned, or even just old, for doing so. It turns out that I was neither alone nor behind the curve.

Strategic Thinking is nothing new-and in and of itself, it really isn’t. For years, decades even, the non-profit world, including the Arts, has been engaged in devising Strategy. This has often been referred to as Strategic Planning. As Mr. La Piana so aptly pointed out in his book and at his talk, this practice has become something that many of us see the value of, but rarely see returns from in terms of its actual implementation. As I listened to him speak and read his book, I nodded in agreement with his statements about how pleased we all feel when we finish a Strategic Plan and how discouraged we feel when, several months later, we find that it’s already hopelessly out of date and that half of the things we planned to do are either impossible or no longer relevant because circumstances have changed in the meantime.

The things that make David La Piana’s methods different are:

  • his methods create a flexible structure that can be quickly updated when things change, so that an organization can be pro-active in responding to that change (or in choosing not to respond, if that’s appropriate), and
  • the concept of Strategic Thinking is normal – in other words, taking a certain amount of time to think something through and determining whether it fits with an organization’s mission, vision and goals.

This may seem like common sense, and it is. However, in a world where there are constant demands to say “yes” to everything for fear of being left behind, or worse, not surviving in an era of significant challenge and change, the reminder that it’s possible to use strategic thinking and still come out ahead – and in fact, better than ahead – is truly refreshing and reassuring.

David La Piana’s ideas may or may not be appropriate for the needs of every organization, but the concept of taking the time to think strategically about whether they are surely is.

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