The Secret Reason that CEOs Embarking on Strategic Planning

The Top Secret Reason that Executives Keep in their Hearts for Embarking on Strategic Planning Why is effective strategic planning critical to nonprofit executives?


Because of what happens to the board during it. Bold processes move boards toward greater engagement and understanding of their role. Plus, they set the board’s efforts in the right direction–working on the strategy, not minutia.



Let me give you an example.
We were in the midst of a strategy decision session in a full board room with the Hillsborough Arts Council overlooking Tampa. The walls were plastered with charts and post-it notes. I stopped the session and gave the board a vaccine.


No, they didn’t roll up their sleeves to get swabbed and stuck with a needle.


Instead, I held up three dinner napkins. The first paper, the second a practical everyday cotton plaid, and the final antique linen. “Which do you prefer?” I asked.


Twenty-eight eyes stared. Brows raised. Mouths open. I had their full attention.


I’d been with them 90 minutes and making significant progress—until this odd moment.


I answered for them, “It doesn’t matter.”


The napkins were an example of the tendency of nonprofit boards to micromanage. The board laughed when they heard my explanation. In the future, whenever their discussions wandered into committee or staff work, I encouraged them to ask each, “Are we talking napkins here?” The question would serve as a quick reminder to return to thinking about the nonprofit’s most pressing strategic issues instead of tactics.


This mid-session inoculation was an overt lesson and an example of what can happen during strategic planning sessions. (For more on getting rid of board micromanaging, see: How to Stop Your Board from Micromanaging.)

What Really Can Happen at Strategic Session

Learning not to micromanage is only one possibility of what might you can do to improve your board relationship and their engagement during the strategy process. When I pioneered my strategic planning approach at a major nonprofit, we realized that the world’s most effective strategy wouldn’t launch the nonprofit to the next level unless the board aligned behind it.


The strategy development process offers a super opportunity to shape your nonprofit’s future and your leaders who will guide you to that future. You can help your board be better leaders and get ahead of the game by leading robust strategic planning processes at your nonprofit.
That is the secret reason that CEOs embark on strategic planning, and it can remain our secret.

For more on board engagement, read:


For more on developing strategy, check out: