In my role as Director of Strategy and Policy, I am tasked with ensuring Concordance not only has a strategic vision and plan but also executes that plan with precision and intention. Along with our Project Management Coordinator, Noah Cross — we are fortunate to work with an engaged leadership team who are dedicated to our ambitious strategic vision, rigorous planning, and purposeful execution year-round.
Through the everyday grind of programming, supporting, meeting, teaching, leading, and coordinating, it can be easy for nonprofit teams to lose sight of the big-picture vision they are moving toward. At Concordance, that purpose is clear – to partner with participants to help them live joyful, abundant, and purposeful lives, and in turn dramatically reduce reincarceration rates. A mission statement alone, though, is not enough to root our strategic vision into the day-to-day functions of our team. To ensure all our efforts are linked to the innovative and industry-leading strategic goals Concordance is striving for, Concordance is deliberate with our strategic planning and execution process.
Because Concordance offers many distinct services under one roof and is working to expand nationally, we must be diligent both in our planning process and in our commitment to execute according to those plans; this helps us ensure the work of our many teams is integrated, informed, and running in the same direction.
At Concordance, the strategic planning process has several key steps:
- Review and Recommitment to the Concordance Strategic Framework – Each year, the Concordance leadership team recommits to this framework, ensuring our mission, vision, and values are at the center of our work. These feed into our five-year strategic goals, the strategic initiatives we use to accomplish those goals, and the measurement lenses with which we assess progress and success.
- SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) – Concordance leadership, with input from team members, assesses what is going well and opportunities for growth, both from internal and external forces. This ensures our plans incorporate the real-world experience of prior years and are realistic and responsive to potential opportunities and challenges in the future.
- Strategic Priority Setting – Using the Strategic Framework and learnings from our SWOT analysis, the leadership team sets the priority objectives for the upcoming year. They ensure these objectives are integrated across departments and align to the resources and time each team has available, ensuring objectives are bold but achievable.
- Operationalization and measurement – To flush out the priority objectives, Concordance drafts detailed operational steps to meet these goals, including delegating tasks to responsible individuals, setting timelines and deliverables, anticipating interdependencies and roadblocks, and noting resource needs and budget implications.
This planning process sets Concordance up for success, but the true test of a high-functioning organization is in ensuring that in the heat and light of daily operations a strategic plan is actually implemented. We have a few tactics for integrating our strategic plan into daily practice and ensuring it serves as a roadmap to our efforts year round:
- Organization-wide understanding and buy-in – A team cannot work toward even the most well-thought-out strategic vision if it doesn’t know and understand the goals. Concordance hosts an annual all-team offsite not only to thoroughly review the annual strategic plan, but also to provide a forum for feedback and input from team members closest to Concordance’s work with participants.
- Strategic Plan visibility – Concordance ensures that our team interacts with our strategic plan often. We review our Strategic Framework and high-level goals at all-team meetings, and leaders have a daily dashboard of the objectives and tasks feeding into the larger goals, to ensure strategic priorities are top of mind.
- Transparent accountability – After obtaining buy-in at all levels of the organization, Concordance holds all team members accountable to completing their part of the strategic plan. Leadership is responsible for providing weekly updates on progress, which feed into monthly and quarterly reporting used to recalibrate Concordance’s efforts across the organization.
- Realistic flexibility – With an understanding that the best laid plans can go awry, we build in time to reevaluate our goals, resource allocation, and timelines, and have a process for pivoting these building blocks as internal and external factors affect our work. Concordance’s leadership team reviews minor plan changes monthly, and twice annually looks at the overall pace of progress and any larger shifts that need to occur.
All of this implementation work would not be possible without tailored technology. At Concordance, we’ve partnered with strategic planning platform Cascade to create customized digital dashboards of our strategic goals and progress in real time. Cascade displays our plan with visualizations for ownership, deliverables, and progress, and provides up-to-date reports at the individual, team, and organizational level. This easy-to-use system ensures our vision doesn’t sit idly on a shelf but is visible for our team as they move through their day-to-day work.
This strategic work may not be glamorous, but it is critical to ensuring we keep our eyes on the ball even under the tremendous pressures of providing quality services to participants every day. Thorough strategic planning not only structures our work in the short- and medium-term, but it also helps build important boundaries around our efforts to ensure everything we do aligns to our mission to serve participants well and, in turn, makes an impact on the cycle of reincarceration in our region and nationwide.
Shelby Trif is Director of Strategy & Policy and Noah Cross is Project Management Coordinator, both at Concordance.