Despite best efforts of nonprofit leaders, many times a strategic plan fails to deliver the goods.

It’s hard enough to get a gifted and capable team to align around a plan, so there are very few things more frustrating for a leader on an Executive Team than when the plan falls flat.

We’ve been there too! It sucks all the oxygen out of the room and feels like you’re stuck on a merry-go-round going nowhere. If we can know what those reasons are ahead of time, it could help you avoid those common misfires. We’ve worked with over 1300+ nonprofits and here are the most common reasons we’ve seen.

These are the reasons why strategic plans don’t work:

1. The Plan was Built for a World that No Longer Exists

As you’ve recently experienced, it’s possible to construct a great plan and the world can render it obsolete in just a couple of weeks. But what’s even more common? “Change by a thousand papercuts.” The world is constantly changing and reinventing and we can wake up one morning have a useless plan in our hands.

The world has changed significantly in the last 15 years, but largely, the process for strategic planning for even the highest impact nonprofits has stayed the same.

2. The Plan Was Inflexible

Perhaps the only assumption we can make with one hundred perfect accuracy is that change is coming. However, some of the most used strategic planning methods build wonderfully constructed “hard plans.” If the world changes, the plan breaks. Leaders need a process for planning and a deliverable that can flex and anticipate changes. We need something antifragile.

3. The Plan didn’t have Concrete Measurables

While the best strategic plans are flexible, they also include measurable goals that are “chunked out” as they go. Plans that lack these key performance indicators (KPI’s) tend to find teams with decreased motivation, a lack of focus, and confusion as to how to make confident decisions towards their vision.

4. The Plan Didn’t Fully Launch

Harvard Business Review recently shared that somewhere between 60-90% of strategic plans never fully launch. There are a myriad of reasons for this, but in our experience, it’s a combination of three critical things: Missing accountability structures, Dispersed power centers that aren’t aligned on the plan, and The Plan activation itself started with a whimper rather than a bang. A winning strategic planning process must account for all three of these things.

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