Seven steps to defining and realizing goals

Originally published in the Kenosha News

By Community Development Educator, Amy Greil

Last week I co-facilitated a strategy retreat for a small group of neighborhood leaders.

Uptown Brass Village Neighborhood Association represents the geographic area located between 14th Avenue and 26th Avenue, and 60th Street and 65th Street (including blocks along Roosevelt Road.)

Preparing for the five-hour session required consideration of maximizing the limited time we had together to formulate some key strategies and make decisions about the next year of volunteer work.

The good news is that even in five hours, this grassroots organization — and many other kinds of organizations — can come away with a strong sense of strategy rooted in a deep appraisal of current market position, assessment of value-added product/service/expertise and realization of emergent opportunities at hand.

The evidence-base for the day’s retreat came from the guidance provided in David La Piana and Melissa Mendes Campos’ text called “The Nonprofit Strategy Revolution” (second edition). The research offered in the short book is based on a strategy cycle of seven steps explained below.

Steps A, B, and C: The group comes to understand who they are as an organization and where they are in the marketplace. This is known as the organizational identity. This includes three elements: (1) the business model, (2) market awareness and, (3) competitive advantage.

Step D: Using the organizational identity, the group creates a “Strategy Screen” that helps sort potential strategies. This means they have established — before a strategic challenge emerges — the criteria by which they will assess possible strategies that the organization identifies. This is a simple, powerful tool for decision-making that includes drafting criteria decisions are based on, and explicitly defines values.

Examples may be: Strategies must be consistent with our mission. A strategy must build on current competitive advantages. A strategy must yield sustainable results, etc.

Step E: Based on organizational self-knowledge and a group’s understanding of the market, next the members recognize and frame a “Big Question,” a strategic challenge, when it arises. This is an opportunity or threat to which the organization must respond.

Step F: Then the group develops and tests the proposed strategy challenging the organization. The strategy should pass a “Reality Check” (Is it feasible?),” Laugh Test” (Can it be pulled off?) and the “Validity Test” (Does it fit with your culture and capacities?).

Step G: Finally the group implement the strategies, takes note of results and adapts continuously. The group continues to enhance the organization’s capacity by restarting the process at a future date.

This is a relatively succinct cycle that can be used and replicated by really any organization that has the time, commitment and drive to continuously assess opportunities for growth and development.

I’m happy to say this approach, adapted for their purposes, worked very well for Uptown Brass Village Neighborhood Association’s Executive Committee. Hopefully, readers can also glean some value in new thinking on the old classic approach of organizational strategic planning. Learn more and access free facilitator materials at