Strategic Planning: Charting The Course For Your Organization

This Community Voice Blog Post was written by NSWM Emeritus Board Member Irv Katz, MSW

At a time when it seems as though everything is changing, when today’s realities demand new solutions, when innovation, reinvention, and transformation are imperatives not options, there are two courses managers can take: either react to each set of challenges and see where it takes us; or address the full set of challenges and opportunities as an organization to chart a new course.

The latter presents a great opportunity for the organization to define, or redefine, itself.

Strategic planning makes sense in these circumstances, right?  But what often passes for strategic planning is a pretty traditional and static process. How we got to the point where elaborate processes of engaging mostly-internal stakeholders, culminating in a facilitated retreat, results in a “strategic plan,” I will never understand.

Strategic planning is about charting a course for an organization–to its best advantage and to the best advantage of its customers–in the context of the “environment” (really, the marketplace) in which it operates. That can’t be done without a significant emphasis on how the marketplace is changing, including what customers will need and expect as the environment evolves, and how the field in which the organization functions is evolving in terms of policy, practice and financing–all very outward looking.

The point: to be relevant and effective, strategy development gives as or greater emphasis to the changing marketplace in which the organization operates as the mission and competencies of the organization.

In this everything-is-changing environment, real strategic planning is an exciting opportunity for an organization.  It provides an opening to sort-of start over without the enormous challenges of creating a new organization. It has the huge advantage of building on the competencies and assets of an existing organization.

The key, for strategy development to be “real,” is to be equally rigorous and honest about changing marketplace realities and opportunities as we are about organizational mission, competencies, and assets. 

Opportunity emerges from the convergence of the two.

For more on this subject, watch for an article on strategic planning by Mr. Katz in the September 2015 edition of the Nonprofit Times.

*The views expressed herein are those solely of the author and not necessarily endorsed by the Network for Social Work Management.

Irv Katz - NSWM Board Member

About the Author:

Irv Katz is president-emeritus of the National Human Services Assembly and president of Civic Sector Strategies. He recently shifted to consulting after a career that included terms as president of the National Human Services Assembly and National Assembly Business Services, group vice president for community impact at United Way of America, president of United Way of Central Indiana, executive director of the Community Service Council of Metropolitan Indianapolis, and executive director of the historic Concord Center in Indianapolis.

Katz has a bachelor’s in English and a master’s in social work from Indiana University and has participated in executive education programs under the auspices of the University of Chicago School of Service Administration and the School of Business at Harvard University. Katz is considered a leader in human services and the nonprofit sector, with honors including the Sagamore of the Wabash conferred by the Governor of the State of Indiana and has been recognized for several successive years as one of the Nonprofit Power & Influence 50 by the NonProfit Times. Katz is cited as a resource on nonprofit and human service matters by the nonprofit and general press and contributes to the Huffington Post Impact Blog.