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Got Alignment? By Tom Okarma

If you stop to think about it, leaders can significantly increase the impact of their nonprofit agencies without spending an extra dime. Say what? Let’s say your agency has:

  • Experienced leadership-CHECK!
  • A clear and compelling strategic plan-CHECK!
  • The respect and support of the community where you operate-CHECK!
  • A hardworking board and staff-CHECK!
  • A cadre of loyal and highly motivated volunteers-CHECK!

How can one agency make a bigger impact on its community than another? How can one deliver services to its clients less expensively than another? Why does one seem to achieve its goals almost yearly while another underperforms and offers excuses?

Often, the missing ingredient is strategic alignment. Agencies that have enterprise strategic alignment usually outperform others. Best-in-class results are possible when the agency effectively links everything together. It all starts with the vision, mission, and values. But, sad to say, that is often where it all ends.

Poor follow-through by leaders to ensure program linkage back to the agency’s mission is all it takes for things to take on their own life. When that happens, you end up with semi-independent silos operating autonomously instead of one well-run organization. This is costly and only dilutes the agency’s impact.

This lack of strategic alignment can show up in many ways. For instance:

  • Resources being spread too thin due to unintended mission creep or loss of focus
  • Problems due to insufficient documentation of procedures, decisions, and protocols
  • Program directors and managers compete with each other because they forget they are supposed to work together to achieve shared goals
  • Bottlenecks and gaps in operations due to an outdated organizational structure

Getting to a condition of strategic alignment in your agency is desirable, achievable, and necessary in these days of limited resources. It’s simple…it’s just not very easy.

It is simple because you can graph and visually monitor your progress, but it is hard because it often requires courage to make tough calls and changes.

You have many tools at your disposal to create and then maintain this strategic alignment. It’s not rocket science,  but it does take a willingness to be the leader everyone expects you to be.

I’d be interested in learning how you maintain alignment in your organizations.


Tom Okarma, as founder of Leaders Vantage Point he helps nonprofit boards and Executive Directors perform at a higher level. Learn more about Leaders Vantage Point today.

CLA.PaperliConfAdBe sure to register for the CLA National Conference in Anaheim, April 30 – May 2, 2013. Tom Okarma will be leading a workshop in the Executive Leadership track, Aligning Your Strategies and Your People on May 2 from 4:00 – 5:00 PM. Don’t miss it!

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