As is often the case, a leadership transition can disrupt a strategic planning process that is already underway. In this case, the organization accelerated the completion of their strategic plan when the new President came on board. Several months into the implementation phase of their strategic plan, the Leadership Team recognized that they were experiencing a number of obstacles to implementing the plan, most notable were: 1) Staff were running into problems developing an operational plan and were not able to prioritize their work activities vis-à-vis the strategic plan, and 2) Leadership was unable to build out a meaningful evaluation framework that would enable them to monitor progress and document effectiveness in achieving long-term objectives. As a result, the Leadership Team sought the support of Ritchie Consulting Inc to refine and strengthen the organization’s five-year strategic plan.
To help establish a baseline of the planning and evaluation work that had already taken place, Ritchie Consulting Inc started by conducting a series of interviews and reviewing organizational materials to understand the planning work that had been completed and to determine how to build upon that work moving forward. In this process, the consultants also learned more about internal communication challenges that were contributing to the lack of clarity, as well as, a lack of buy-in around the strategic plan.
Ritchie Consulting Inc consultants spearheaded a Theory of Change process that helped to flesh out the causal pathways to the organization’s vision and intended impact. The Theory of Change map that was developed then became a planning tool for the participants to make strategic choices about the optimal way to leverage their impact and advance their vision. The consultant team believed it was essential that the Management Team, those that reported directly to the Leadership Team, and supervised the majority of staff in the organization, be directly engaged in the planning process. Managers had numerous opportunities to participate in the planning process and to evolve the work by leading work groups. Various compositions of the management team helped to develop the Theory of Change, to conduct the organizational assessment, to develop enterprise level strategies, and to develop and complete the implementation plan.
By looking at their current strategies and programs vis-à-vis the Theory of Change, the organization evolved their understanding of where the organization was uniquely positioned to have an impact. From there the planning teams developed a set of enterprise-level strategies that advanced current programs and encouraged new ways of working in the organization. In effect, the Theory of Change became the basis of the organization’s strategic plan and provided them with a new vantage point in assessing their programs. This led to a rigorous refinement of the Strategic Plan as well as the development of a comprehensive program evaluation framework. The organization was now able to assess the impact of their programs, which drove resource and capital investment decisions. Additionally, the increased involvement with the Management staff allowed for improved transparency, staff participation, and communication throughout the organization. This participatory process addressed underlying communication issues and resulted in a more transparent organizational structure with a unified approach, as well as, increased accountability at all levels throughout the organization.