Why you need two strategic plans

Continuing the real-time posts about our strategic review, this post covers CCCC’s transition from developing one strategic plan to developing another. Why two plans? Because one is devoted to the external changes that will fulfill our mission, and the other is about building an organization that can make those external changes. Together they form one comprehensive strategic plan.

I’m still following the review process laid out in my post “Strategic planning for Christian ministries.” We’re taking our time with the process so we can reflect, propose, talk with people outside of CCCC, pray, wait and reflect again, and then move forward a step. We want to get this right because it has significant consequences for choices we’ll be making for years to come.

Theory of Change-based strategic plan

The Theory of Change model is the foundation for the first strategic plan because it examines everything from the perspective of your client/customer/beneficiary. This is what actually gets your mission accomplished. Its outputs are the positive steps that will bring about the desired external change.

There’s no particular book I’m following to develop this plan because I haven’t found one yet. Instead of a book, I am drawing upon what I learned at Harvard Business School in their Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management course (worth every penny! GO!!).

I just searched once again while writing this post and found a 2011 book I must have missed. It looks good, so I’ve ordered it. The book is Purposeful Program Theory: Effective Use of Theories of Change and Logic Models.

Using this model, we’ve developed CCCC’s theory of change. The model is still subject to change as we fine tune the wording, but it is essentially in its final form.

Given our mission that our members will be exemplary, healthy and effective Christian ministries, the question is What will it take for them to become that? We listed the conditions that we think they need in order to fulfill our mission and then thought about all the barriers they might experience to their achieving those conditions. The barriers were developed based on the empathy maps we developed, consultations with stakeholders and others, our own knowledge from answering about 20,000 inquiries per year, and some small surveys.

The Corrections column is a high level list of what we think ministries will need to become exemplary, healthy and effective: education, consulting, contracted services, connection with other people and so on. The next column starts with a list of assets that we assume ministries will need if they are to use our services. Elsewhere in the more detailed work to follow I have prepared a list for “and if not….” So if a ministry does not have the budget to be a member, what is our plan to help them? Do we help them fundraise? Do we create another class of web membership at a lower fee? Do we arrange bursaries? Is there another option? Time will tell. All I know is that we are here to serve all Christ’s ministries, so if a ministry wants our help we do not want to withhold it simply for lack of funds.

The second part of the column lists other needs that people have that don’t necessarily relate to our services but that provide the context in which these people engage our services. This information came from the empathy maps. As we design our programs we need to keep these other needs in mind.

The next column is interventions, a very high level ‘basket’ that will hold all the specific programs we offer. For example, shared learning includes:

  • members learning from us,
  • us learning from our members,
  • members learning from each other.

The shared learning basket also holds most of our current programs:

  •  conference
  • regional seminars
  • webcasts
  • answering telephone and email requests
  • the Bulletin
  • this blog and so on.

Outsourcing services includes all contractual services such as our registered pension plan and group benefit plan. Consulting includes our New Charity Registration service.

Global service is a new category, but it recognizes that overseas missionaries use our services to learn how to fundraise and how to provide good governance for their projects. Our intention is to serve the staff of our Canadian members wherever they are in the world.

The next column highlights the outcomes we expect to see our members experience. This column is really important because it forms the basis for measuring our mission success. Management will be examining this column quite carefully to see what we can measure that will persuade the board that we are moving forward in our mission each year.

The final column is just a repeat of the first column, because if we do everything in-between, then our mission from the first column will be fulfilled.

The next step for us is to expand the interventions column with all the ideas we have for programs and services. That will be a fun brainstorming session!

The theory of change model is an excellent way to design programs to fulfill the mission. However, it says nothing about the internal strategies that we need in order to become capable of delivering those programs. That’s what the second phase of the strategic review will be about.

Balanced Scorecard/Strategy Maps-based strategic plan

IMPORTANT NOTE: After publishing this post, I discovered how to connect the Theory of Change with the Strategy Map so that you have only one, holistic strategic plan. You should read this post first to get the basic idea of a strategy map, and then read this post for the connecting point.

Once we know what services we propose to provide, we will then design the ideal organization that can best deliver them. We’ll be using Strategy Maps by Kaplan and Norton as our guide. Strategy maps were designed with for profits in mind, but the book shows how they are adapted for use by public sector organizations (school boards) and charities. At Harvard Business School I learned that the financial goals at the top of the for profit model move to the bottom of the charity version of the model. Financial is replaced by mission and everything else remains the same. Kaplan and Norton include case studies in the book to show how real organizations, including charities, used the strategy maps model.

I’ll report on what our strategy map looks like after we’ve built it, but the idea is to examine what it will take to attract and retain customers (for most charities it would be beneficiaries and for CCCC it is members) so that our programs and services can have a chance to affect them. This is quite a different question than the one the theory of change asked, which was “What do our beneficiaries need?” This is why I said above that the theory of change focuses on external change and strategy maps focus on building the business/charity.

At the customer level of the strategy map, you examine what they need from you in terms of price, service, quality and a bunch of other factors. You might include privacy, the ability to start a program, stop it and pick it up again. It might be service at a particular time of day.

Based on what the charity needs to do to find and keep beneficiaries engaged in your programs, you then build the internal process part of the map to support that work. This is the value-creation part of what you do. Internal processes include customer management. You might call this donor management if you think of donors as one of your customer segments, or it could be member management if you are a church, or client management if you are an inner city mission. This includes activities such as recruiting, ensuring good customer relations, keeping the database up-to-date, etc. Process also includes the production part of your charity. For us, this is content creation, teaching, and answering questions. Innovation is another component of your internal processes. How do you develop new ideas and bring them into service? Innovation processes will keep your ministry viable as the world changes around you.

The key idea is that you zero in on those customer and process-related strategies that are most crucial to mission success. They get priority of attention, time and funding.

When you have the process part nailed down, then you move to the final part: the organization itself in terms of culture, staff and technology. What needs to change in your culture to support your strategically important processes and customer expectations? Which training and development opportunities are most closely aligned with your strategic needs? What technology do you need?

The strategy map will make decision-making much easier because it provides guidance for all decisions. What will best support our strategy? Which job applicant best suits our strategic needs?

You then develop the Balanced Scorecard to track only those measurements that best show whether or not your strategies are successful. There are lots of things you could measure, but you only measure those things that are strategically important. Coupled with the measurements from the theory of change, you will have a comprehensive set of measurements to demonstrate to your board that you are accomplishing your mission and that the ministry is healthy.

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