The challenge with strategy

Building resilience to lead in uncertain times

Too often, strategic planning focus on keeping people happy with the process.  At times, we mistake strategic planning as group attempts at predicting the future – we forget why Soviet-style central planning failed. Strategy is about choice-making. Choices are not necessarily easy, but they must be clear. And, good strategy is measured by the extent to which a well articulated choice set drives decisions on a day-to-day basis.

I like to think of good strategy as a compass – a mechanical compass with a quivering arrow – which provides accurate broad direction, the kind of direction which requires constant refinement along the path.

Good strategic planning indeed requires very good process design. But it doesn’t end there, that’s merely the beginning.

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Good strategy can be about making deliberate choices as part of thoughtfully conceived process of stakeholder engagement.  But opportunities for important strategic choices don’t come neatly in small packages every five years.  Strategy is a process which needs to be enduring, not episodic.  Strategic planning must drive operations every day.  The real challenge of good strategy is not in planning but in its execution.  

Strategy is a process – with varying degrees of formality and which occurs on an ongoing basis – to define a set of choices that are important to the vitality and success of an organization.  Choices can be positive ones that everyone will celebrate – think of the too often loosely defined plan to grow revenue which is common in most charity strategic plans– and choices can also be very difficult ones such as the discontinuation of a program or the decision to cut ties to a funder whose funding model is broken. 

Yves has a deep love for public policy and for the role of charities in building a more just and inclusive Canada. He is a natural collaborator and strategist. He is one of those rare individuals who combines deep knowledge of governance, fundraising, public policy, and programs. His breadth of knowledge is combined with deep experience as a CEO of large and complex organizations. That’s why he is so well suited to guide organizations in making important strategic choices and to mentor leaders in our sector.

Marlene Deboisbriand

Vice-President, Member Services and Programs, Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada

My approach

Building capacity to be strategic every day

My approach is designed to build the capacity of organization to be strategic every day. This requires working closely with key staff and volunteers and developing tailored approaches that suit each organization. Engagements can be tied to the important periodic opportunities for comprehensive strategy renewal; other engagements can be designed to provide deep reflections about strategy without much investment as is the case in board retreats.

The heart of the task had to do with engaging people’s willingness to suspend disbelief in the futures we offered.  We knew that at least one, and probably more of the scenarios we had developed would challenge their beliefs.

The Art of the Long View: Planning for the Future in an Uncertain World

Peter Schwartz

My experience

successful strategy development and implementation in national organizations

I have a deep understanding of the revenue function and of Canada’s rapidly evolving fundraising environment coupled with powerful insights into how the digital age is transforming pro-social behaviors.

My knowledge of grant-making, public policy, social finance, and other innovative programming is deep and highly relevant to social purpose organizations of all types.


Helping organizations crystallize the building blocks of strategy development and coaching teams to build bridges between strategy and execution

Strategy planning process design and coaching


Trends assessment and environmental scan

Scenario planning process design and coaching

Board retreats and meeting facilitation

Strategic performance scorecard development

CEO performance management process design