Adaptive Strategy

Continuous adjustment of strategy in the light of changing organisational context has been a recurring theme in my last three posts. This post offers something of a footnote to the earlier articles.

The header image above provides a slightly different perspective on the ever-shifting point of decision. The time dimension is emphasised here in a way that was less obvious in the previous schematics. Your monitoring of past performance is helpful in evaluating options in the present moment, to determine future goals, policies and actions (directing).

As your non-profit board recognises changes in both your stakeholder needs and the environment in which your organisation is operating, the answers to the key strategic questions also evolve. Reiterating messages from my previous post, those questions are:

  • What should we do, and why? (Strategy)
  • What could go wrong? (Risk)

Consideration of these two closely related queries will desirably include answers to ancillary questions, such as:

  • What if we did nothing?
  • What might we need to stop doing if we are to allocate adequate resources to the new strategic initiative/s?

Previous points of decision and their strategy outcomes are suggested in this chart by the transparent discs located on the ‘past’ segment of the timeline. While earlier decisions were relevant for the prevailing circumstances at the times they were taken, continuing relevance cannot be assumed given changes in stakeholder needs and the world around us.

Documented policies and strategies help us to remain focused on our purposes, but effective governance can only be achieved in the present moment. A steady hand on the tiller is fine in calm waters, but a storm (e.g. COVID-19) demands different navigation skills. Adaptive leadership, strategy, and governance require accommodation of new priorities, and de-prioritisation of goals and initiatives that are no longer relevant.

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