10 Steps for Effective, Calculated Forecasting
Typical five-year strategic planning forecasts perform about as well as dart-throwing chimpanzees, according to recent cognitive neuroscience research.
The operations director at a mid-size nonprofit, let’s call her “Linda,” wasn’t surprised when she learned about these new studies. In 2011, her nonprofit went through a five-year strategic planning process, which resulted in a major commitment to growing the organization’s international outreach.
Well, the plan didn’t go according to plan. Political and social developments associated with the turbulent 2016 political season caused a great deal of uncertainty and resulting problems for this international expansion. The assumptions built into the strategic plan, and the resulting projects and financial commitments, failed to pan out, with serious negative consequences for the nonprofit.
For example, the plan resulted in a major investment into expanding international facilities and staff in several new countries. Yet, the drastically shifted political environment meant that these new ventures could no longer function effectively.
Several major institutional funders withdrew their planned gifts, while private donations plummeted. “Linda,” a real executive, whose identity is being protected, had to make very serious cuts to keep key operations running. She ended up not only terminating the new ventures and staff, but also some well-established ones. She had to cut some other planned projects and lost the initial investments. She also had to lay off long-time staff to maintain the nonprofit’s financial viability.
It’s not a pretty picture. It is no wonder she wasn’t optimistic about strategic planning.
Sent by our awesome alumni engagement committee