Organizational Strategy: Essential Ingredients for Success

As our name evolve suggests, we believe it is important to periodically examine where we are, how we got here, and where we’re going. Communities, governments, corporations, and most other entities need strategies to work toward whatever vision drives their existence and ensure sustainability. Because success is often a moving target, strategies need to be reviewed and adjusted on a regular basis.

evolveEA recently spent a day examining our mission, identity, and potential plans for our future as a multidisciplinary consulting and design firm. We held a retreat to facilitate creative thinking about ways we could further advance sustainability while growing as a company. We all had fun disrupting our routine for one day in order to immerse ourselves in thinking about the future.

The following is a suggested format for a strategy development engagement, based on our own retreat and our experience in guiding clients through a similar process:

Track the history of the organization. Has the mission changed over the years? What activity has been tracked and what can be learned in analyzing that data?

What are the challenges and opportunities for the organization today? What strengths and achievements should be highlighted?

Here’s where the strategy should begin to emerge—Where is the organization headed in the next five years? What will we be able to control and what is outside of our control? How can we respond to different scenarios affecting the space in which we operate?

Here are some tips for making the session productive and engaging:
evolveEA 2013 Retreat

Change of scenery: Holding a strategy retreat or meeting in a thought-provoking environment will help participants approach hard questions with open minds. Our evolveEA retreat was held at the Union Project, not far from our office.

Something to look at: Prepare some visual aids in advance, enlisting the help of a graphic designer if possible.

Something to interact with: Facilitate an active discussion, using materials such as card games or participatory diagramming.

Something fun: Break up the day with a casual activity. We took 90 minutes between strategy talks to create ceramic bird-houses and other garden decorations in the ceramics studio at the Union Project. Team-oriented games, sports, and creative activities help to strengthen camaraderie and allow participants to rest their minds.

Record Results: Don’t let great ideas fall through the cracks! Make sure someone is taking detailed notes throughout the meeting(s). Voice recordings, videos, and photos can also be useful in capturing conversations and exercises.

In the past year, we have facilitated strategic planning for non-profit organizations like Center for Organ Recovery & Education, Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh, local schools like Winchester Thurston and the Waldorf School of Pittsburgh, and community development corporations like Lawrenceville Corporation and the South Pittsburgh Development Corporation. It is common for our sustainability consulting work to broaden in scope or segue to an analysis of overal mission and vision.

Evolve EA