strategic planning

The return to Petersburg

Floricane's first strategic planning client was The James House, a non-profit in the Tri-Cities (Hopewell, Petersburg, and Colonial Heights, along with Chesterfield, Dinwiddie and Prince George counties). We've followed that work up with engagements with a half-dozen Petersburg-area organizations. 

We spent a lot of time in recent years learning about the unique political, social and economic landscape of the Tri-Cities, and we've enjoyed getting to know Petersburg better. 

Last week, it felt like we relocated the business to Petersburg. As part of an engagement I've made with the Partnership for Nonprofit Excellence's Organizational Solutions arm and the Cameron Foundation, I've been interviewing for two organizational assessment projects in Petersburg. I brought our new consultant, Lesley Bruno, along for both meetings to listen and learn. 

Our first meeting found us meandering through the residential and commercial edges of Petersburg, as we found our way to the Crater District Planning Commission offices. Our second meeting took us into the heart of Old Town Petersburg, and to an old-time lunch at the veritable Dixie Diner. (I had the chicken-and-dumplings with collard greens, y'all.) 

We talked about the unique environmental, educational, political, workforce development, and health care challenges of the region with our two prospective clients. Along the way, I rediscovered some of the things that make the Tri-Cities so uniquely important to the larger identity of Central Virginia. 

It's a shame that more Richmonders don't spend time understanding and exploring this corner of our region. It's exciting to have the opportunity to deepen my own understanding once again. 

Say "six simultaneous strategic sprints" at once, fast

During the first part of the year, I started new strategic projects with the American Civil War Museum, Blue Sky Fund, Byrd Theatre Foundation, Equality Virginia, Virginia Bankers Association, and the Virginia Mentoring Partnership. Boy, are my arms tired.  

Tackling six simultaneous strategic projects at one time is asking for trouble. (And it makes for many late nights of writing. Hence the tired arms.) And yet, working with a slate of organizations as vastly unique and different as the ones we're currently winding down is a powerful reminder of why I love the work I do. 

Each day at Floricane is different. When we were recently interviewing candidates for a new role with the team, almost every person asked us what a typical day at Floricane looked like. It was all we could do not to laugh. (I might have cried once or twice, actually.)  

A typical day at Floricane looks like a team of passionate people working closely to help other people, and organizations, uncover and live into their best selves. Which is to say that no one day looks or feels anything like another. 

I feel fortunate -- even when I am staring at strategic gobbledygook on a computer screen at two in the morning -- to have stumbled into a career where the content of every single day changes. From the positive impact of community banks on the lives of Virginia's small towns to the aspirations of a small, single-screen theater to transform the Big Screen experience to educating kids, ensuring the rights of all Virginians, and telling the story of a conflict that shaped our nation -- it doesn't get much more diverse. 

Often, it's only when I slow down from a sprint like I experienced in March and April that I am able to reflect on what I've learned. This spring, once again, I learned (or affirmed) that every organization who works with Floricane is staffed by people with passion who are genuinely committed to doing great things within and for their organization. At our best, we help them to see their vision more clearly, increase their shared alignment around it, and engage more effectively in the construction of the future.

​Sprinting with Virginia Mentoring Partnership

It’s astounding that mentoring in our public schools has been so visible for more than a generation – but the Virginia Mentoring Partnership (VMP) remains so invisible to the public. If you’ve ever worked with a kid in a formal mentoring program, you probably benefitted from VMP. The organization provides training and support for mentoring programs around Virginia.

For the next several months, we’ll be taking VMP staff and board through a round of our new “strategic sprint” process – or, SEAL Team Training for Nonprofits, as we jokingly call it. The process starts with a focus – in this case, a few key areas of emphasis developed by the board. For five months, we’ll work with each board committee to hone in on specific, actionable work that supports that focus. In between sessions, we huddle with the executive committee to check alignment and process.

At its best, the strategic sprint process helps board committees make measurable progress around key areas of work. It clears the decks of extraneous reporting, or well-intended new work for staff, and puts the board’s talent to work in action-oriented ways.

Creating a Different Future Is Pure Strategy

In strategic planning, one of the hardest steps to take often is away from what we already know.

What if the product your organization has relied on so heavily for years vanished, and was replaced with something else? What if that long-term partnership dissolved, and you forged a new path forward solo? What if your funding model looked completely different three years from now? 

Imaging the future is hard work. It can be scary work. But it is probably the most important, and strategic, work an organization can do. 

Don’t take my word for it. Listen to Harvard Business professor Hiro Takeuchi:

“The world is in flux,” he says, “and the only constant is the drastic change that is coming. We live in an era where discontinuity is the only constant. The good old days are gone.”

If they were ever really here. 

Roll the Credits with the Byrd Theatre Foundation

We spent an evening last fall dreaming about the future with the Byrd Theatre Foundation. Over the next four months, we’re building a strategic plan to make those dreams a reality.

The exciting thing about our work with the Byrd Theatre Foundation has everything to do with the ubiquitous nature of the iconic building the foundation supports. Engaging in a conversation that dreams big about what the Byrd Theatre can become – that dreams beyond its status as the perfect college date night – is going to be fun.

Place Your Strategic Bets

Strategy is about placing bets, and increasing the odds around those bets.

That little gem came out of the mouth of a client last week, and I quickly jotted it down. It’s not a new concept, but I liked the way she phrased it – and it hit my consciousness at the right moment.

One of the hardest tasks we have as strategic consultants is guiding our clients to important intersections, and helping them choose a path forward. Too often, clients become mesmerized – or paralyzed – by all of the items they need for a successful journey. Not only do they lose sight of a bigger vision, they fail to take advantage of the unique vistas they’ll pass along the way.

In our extremely competitive world, where the playing field has been leveled by technology, transparency and risk aversion, the vistas are where the game changes.

If everyone can visualize the same destination or dream – “No child will go to bed hungry” or “A cultural destination of choice” (Yawn, right? But real!) – and everyone has the same tools in their toolbox – marketing, board development, fund development, and so forth – where’s the gap?

The gap is in the journey. It’s the choices organizations make, or fail to make, to get off the beaten path. Not to choose a road less traveled, but to choose a strategic road that puts their enterprise at risk and forces the board and staff to play smartly and aggressively.

We sometimes ask our clients to wrestle with questions of transformation. We invite them to identify revolutionary ideas. We challenge them to break the mold.

Sometimes they respond.

Those are the clients who leave the strategic casino smiling.

A Day in Harrisonburg with the Arts Council of the Valley

ROOOOAD TRIIIIIIIIP! John and I spent Monday in Harrisonburg, VA with staff and board members from the Arts Council of the Valley, which included a tour of the Court Square Theater (pictured above). I had never been to Harrisonburg before-- and I've been missing out! The historic downtown is beautiful, the small town is overflowing with arts and culture, and the Arts Council of the Valley is right smack dab in the middle of it all.

Floricane is helping ACV transform a lengthy, broad strategic plan into a concise document full of realistic action items. This will mean a clearer vision for the next 18 months and a simpler plan for making positive changes. We hope the entire staff and board will be relieved and excited when they see the final product!