A Tale of Two Strategies

There is the process of creating, and then there is the process of doing. Work continues, both with the implementation of The James House's new strategic plan, and with the creation of a strategic plan for the Valentine Richmond History Center. Both projects require a very different sort of skillsand attention, which makes life challenging and fun. Hopefully for everyone involved. Over the next 45 days, I'll be holed up with markers, flip charts, pretzels -- and Lesley Bruno, the Richmond History Center's project manager for the strategic planning process. Lesley listens a lot, and she tak es notes. And then she asks a question that freezes my brain, or suggests a turn in our work that opens up a whole new direction. Our shared goal is to develop a plan that delivers some pragmatic, short-term guidance and some ambitious initiatives, both of which position the Richmond History Center to take advantage of future demographic, technological and cultural trends. During that same period, I'll be blocking out time with key members of The James House board and staff to quickly move on the implementation of the Hopewell-based non-profit's strategic plan we developed earlier this year. In addition to building significant board capacity, we'll be implementing a set of very ambitious goals related to development and fund-raising. Both projects are engaging me in extremely different ways: At the Richmond History Center, we're trying to thread two distinct needles. The first is short-term, focused and rooted in not overburdening an organization or staff that is at, or near, capacity. That means identifying manageable tactics that move the center forward without relying on additional resources. The second is more of a stretch -- helping the organization look several decades into the future to anticipate ways it will need to reinvent itself in order to continue to tell the story of our amazing city. At The James House, I will cycle through three different roles -- strategist, project manager and coach -- in order to achieve our goals. The first is empowering the board to strategically lead the organization forward. The second, to help the organization meet the growing challenges of women and children in the Tri-Cities who are affected by sexual and domestic violence. Turning our strategic ideas into a reality that serves these clients may well be some of the most important work I do in 2010. One thing I've discovered over the past year is that cookie cutters are useless tools in strategic planning and consulting. Having a loose process is a good thing, but assuming that every project can be forced through similar molds is inherently unfair to the client -- and to the consultant. Especially if the consultant is curious, open to learning and willing to work.