Recently, I wrote about my confidence in our clients and their work. Now, just because I'm confident in them doesn’t mean they’ll actually implement their plans. Here are two pitfalls that can easily derail implementing a strategic plan. I’ve seen both of them at work in several organizations – some I have worked with, and some (in full transparency) where I have been in leadership:
First, it’s so easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day work that we forget about the bigger picture. Perhaps you have heard the story about the two stonemasons who are working together on a stone wall for a sanctuary. One brick mason, as he shapes the stone grumbles and complains. When asked what he does, says, “I’m chipping away at stone.” The other mason has a relatively upbeat outlook and when asked what he is doing, he says, “I’m building a space where people will encounter the divine.” Both of their responses were accurate, only one saw his work in terms of the bigger picture. If we aren’t regularly checking and organizing our daily work against our goals and strategies, we can easily lose sight of the big picture.
Second, in the midst of getting bogged down in the day-to-day, organizations become inward focused, putting internal needs in front of their mission and losing sight of why (and for whom) they exist. They begin to design processes that make life easier for them and not for their clients. This isn’t just an organizational challenge – it’s a human challenge, too. And guess what, our organizations are full of humans!
Here’s the thing - both of these pitfalls are SO easy to fall into. The best way to avoid them is to build regular reminders of why you exist and whom you exist to serve into your regular work, board meetings, and staff meetings.
If we are not intentional it is easy for us to merely push rocks. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to merely work with stone. I want to be involved in building beautiful things.
How about you, what pitfalls have you encountered in implementing strategic plans?