June 16, 2004


I spent most of yesterday afternoon and evening in a Strategy Planning session for a local theatre group where I'm a board member.

I've participated in many of these in my time, including at least one other time for this particular org, and I always find them to be disappointing and frustrating.

Using this kind of thing for brainstorming, and as a sort of focus group, for accumulating ideas about the organization's potentials and challenges, is fine. That process can be interesting and educational.

But when it comes time to actually try to craft a strategy and/or plan, these things always bog down.

It's unrealistic to put 16 people (in yesterday's case) in a room and expect them to agree on anything that is not watered down or mediocre. The unusual, forward-thinking ideas will always be shouted down. The few who have genuine insights will often be overwhelmed by the masses who don't know the subtleties of a subject.

It's always frustrating.

Personally I'd like to see the whole process stop after the brainstorming part, then let the organization's leaders take all this raw material and shape it into two or three plans that the board can consider and endorse.

But as always, you want to have the board only define the broad outlines of the organization's goals and limitations. Then let your leaders choose the ways that they are accomplished.

The most important, and basically only, thing that a non-profit board should do, is to hire the executive director. The organization will thrive, drift, languish, or die, based on the quality of that one act.

I've been involved with a lot of non-profits over the years. Some have had good boards, and some bad ones. But the only thing that ever made these orgs great was the quality of the executive director.

Posted by jackhodgson at June 16, 2004 12:09 PM