Beyond Strategic Planning

The president of a large, regional, family foundation called HSD one day. HSD staff had supported her organization in program design, facilitation, evaluation, and training for a number of years, but this request was different.

She began the conversation by saying the one thing they DID NOT need was a strategic plan. Their identity was based on the radical diversity of their programs and the intelligence and strong independence of program staff. They would not be well served by a long list of aligned action items. Besides that, the board was not interested in spending even a moment in the throes of a traditional strategic plan. On the other hand, she said, "We need to think together about our future. Can you help us?" After a brief conversation and a quick Adaptive Action, it was clear that a strategic framework was what they needed. It would help everyone see the pattern for the future and inspire them to move into that pattern in whatever way fit their roles and areas of expertise.

At the next board retreat, the process began. An environmental scan helped them see current patterns affecting their region and the world (WHAT?).

A challenging conversation about historical values, insights of the new generation of family leadership, and emerging social and economic challenges informed values, identity, and outcomes for the future (SO WHAT?).

Program areas were invited and inspired to explore and re-define their work in the context of the emerging pattern (NOW WHAT?). These patterns were documented in a Strategic Framework that set the context for dialogue and collaboration across silos in the foundation and with external partners across the community.

Three years later, the board and staff reviewed and revised the framework, and it continues to hold a coherent whole for the foundation, even while all the parts adapt to changing circumstances.

Related Resources

Rooted in the study of chaos and complexity, Adaptive Action introduces a simple, common-sense process that will guide you and your organization into reflective action.
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