In this blog, we've previously written about a need for cascading alignment between the vision, mission, strategic plan, and the organizational or business plan for any organization, whether public or private. Knowing that you can't be everything to everyone all the time right now is important for an organization's governors and leaders to know and to act upon. If the 'boots on the ground' work that must be done doesn't somehow align with achieving the organization's overall vision, why are you doing it?
There are at least a couple of ready answers to this question. The first is that the vision isn't quite right, and perhaps it should be adjusted to accommodate an ever-shifting environment. Visions are for the long term, though, so just because something happened this year doesn't automatically mean you need to take your governance eye off that idea of success a generation from now. We have this very conversation about COVID-19. There is no doubt that the pandemic has wrought havoc on many plans, but should it force a vision change? Hopefully, the pandemic is relatively short-lived in the big scheme of things, and the vision statement is robust enough that it is still the desired ideal state for the organization.
The second answer to that 'why are we doing it' question is that maybe the effort being expended is not required, again acknowledging that no organization can be everything to everyone. Responding to a need, whether real or perceived, uses up scarce resources that could perhaps be better used in an area more focused on achieving the organizational vision
These two responses could be helpful to a manager who is being asked by the council or board of directors why a particular activity is not being considered or why the vision is not being changed because of COVID.
There's another angle to this alignment insight too. By necessity, a high-level governance plan like a strategic plan or official community plan will not identify the operational or tactical work done in support of those plans. Operational, business or tactical plans have more detail than governance plans, and not all the work of the organization will be in the governance plan. It's unlikely that a strategic plan will address paying the bills or evaluating staff, but an operational plan might include those topics from time to time. It's also possible that there will be gaps in the operational plan, though these will likely be closed in revised iterations of the business plan.
A helpful exercise is to identify the programs and services that the organization delivers and assign relative priorities to these. The highest priorities will naturally emerge at the top of the pile and will be funded, while some of those programs and services that don't add as much value could be considered for reduction or removal. Just as the environment shifts, so should the organization's response – but don't forget to keep your eye on how best to achieve the long-term vision.
As always, I'm interested in your thoughts about this topic. What does your council or board expect in terms of alignment of work with the strategic plan? Do you check in from time to time? Do the governors understand that they do not own management's plans?
You can find me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The company's Twitter profile is @strategic_steps.