How Dynamic Planning Can Help you Chart a Course During this Unprecedented Time

Dynamic PlanningBefore coronavirus, a strategic plan was enough to navigate the future, but now that we’re dealing with a pandemic and recession (or even a depression), nonprofit leaders need a different way to think about planning that builds in the agility and creativity required during these extraordinary times. And that different way is the fast-paced, flexible Capacity Partners® Framework for Dynamic Planning.

Dynamic Planning sets up a process of regular reassessment during a time of significant change; COVID-19 now, but it could also be unexpected leadership turnover, security breaches, or a sudden major drop in funding. It may seem like two steps forward, one step back for a time, but through an iterative process, boards of directors and staff can use Dynamic Planning to lead their organizations through a rapidly-changing environment and onto the “next normal.”

We’ve identified four stages in Dynamic Planning. In Stage One, you quickly develop a Response Plan that enables your organization to react to a crisis in a purely tactical fashion. While Mission, Vision, and Values still ground your organization, this is the “oh no, what is happening?” stage. During the current COVID-19 crisis, organizations transitioned to telework, assessed cash flows, and set up a response team to keep the organization functioning.

Some organizations are now in Stage Two, or Monitoring. During this stage, you remain flexible to manage ongoing change and adjust your response plan quickly. Focus tends to be operational, and board leadership is critical as your organization figures out funding and strategic direction. You may need to make hard choices about staffing and delivery of your services. Don’t forget to keep your funders and key stakeholders in the loop—communication remains vital to relationships, especially as you continue to pivot.

While adjusting operations and serving the immediate needs of your stakeholders can be all-consuming, at some point you must focus on your future—your “next normal.”  This is what we call Stage Three – Planning Ahead. For some, planning ahead will involve moderate changes to an existing strategic direction; others will need to reinvent their business models significantly.

Your board and key staff will create a series of scenarios based on hypotheticals about what the future holds and different courses of action. You will lay out plans for multiple options since projections in this unprecedented time will often be wrong. Will we have a winter spike or a quick vaccine? When will people be comfortable attending in-person programs and meetings?  Will the financial impact of one scenario vs. another be so great that we will need to revise our services, consider a merger, or dramatically reimagine our future?

The end result of this strategic thinking will be a Dynamic Plan lasting six to twelve months. Those organizations that think strategically and are open to reinventing themselves as necessary will be the ones that not only recover but rebound.

Finally, in Stage Four, Transition, you are ready implement the Dynamic Plan you created in Stage Three. Since the path of COVID-19 and the economic recovery remain so uncertain, you will likely unfold your Dynamic Plan in stages, staying flexible and prepared to pivot as the world continually changes.

Organizational VitalityAs you work your way through the four stages, it is critical that you examine the impact on all facets of your organization, including your culture, stakeholders (board, staff, donors, volunteers, and clients), fundraising, finances, marketing, communications, programs, and technology. As part of our Dynamic Planning Framework, Capacity Partners has created pragmatic worksheets for every stage of the process.

Through Dynamic Planning, your transition will be based on clear thinking, and like a sailboat, tacking to your ultimate destination, you will arrive at a future that advances your mission and enhances your organization.

Capacity Partners’ expert consultants can help your organization use Dynamic Planning to ensure your continued success during these unparalleled times. For a copy of our worksheet or more information on our services, please contact us at info@capacitypartners.com or (240) 462-5151

 

(And click here if you'd like to listen to a short, informative webinar on Dynamic Planning in the Time of Covid-19 and Beyond.)