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April 17th, 2016

Last time I shared with you the #1 Reason to Avoid Strategic Planning – Time and Timing. Today we’ll look at Organizational Climate and how it can propel or hinder your strategic planning and implementation.

When one of my clients – let’s call him Bill – first became the CEO a large nonprofit the organization was floundering. For a long time it was led by people who had the best of intentions but not the strategic outlook or discipline to truly optimize the organization’s mission. The leadership team (LT) was comprised of talented individuals, but they were a group of managers all with their own interests, agendas and loyalties, only interacting when necessary. Bill was also unknown and had a starkly different personality and management approach than his predecessors, which initially engendered resistance in the entire culture, including the LT.

Upon conducting an organizational assessment I learned that the staff was uncomfortable with Bill, uncertain of his intentions and vividly aware of and negatively impacted by the polarization among the LT. As eager as Bill was to embark on the strategic planning process he knew it would likely fail without first addressing these systemic tensions.

The organizational assessment became the first step on the path to strategic planning readiness. It was empowering to staff to be asked for input and began shaping Bill’s reputation as a thoughtful, visionary, inclusive leader. Over the next year I facilitated a series of retreats for the LT and eventually for all staff to help foster trust and open, collaborative relationships at all levels. Having worked with me before, Bill knew that for a strategic plan to flourish it needs a fertile ground cultivated with this first set of interventions. Thanks to his focus on culture – as well as brilliant strategy – the organization grew by 50% in the last three years!

The organizational dynamic described above is one of many that can prevent a plan from succeeding – both in inception and implementation stages. Fear, uncertainty, power struggles and all types of conflict (overt and passive-aggressive) inadvertently create resistance, a survival mindset and organizational climate that are detrimental to successful planning and implementation.

So before you go down the long, extensive and expensive rout of strategic planning, invest some time and resources in assessing what internal dynamics could propel or hinder your success. The best way to do this is with support of an external consultant. And as much as I’d love be that resource for you (please let me know if I can be) please know that there are many competent, objective, trustworthy organization development professionals that can help. From assessing the organizational climate to providing and implementing recommendations for creating fertile conditions for your plan to thrive, this could be the most important investment you make in your organization’s future.

Thank you for reading this series. Please share your thoughts and questions and stay tuned for reason #3 to Avoid Strategic Planning!


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