Strategic Planning: Navigating New Frontiers

A case study related to the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) illustrates the strength of strategic planning. As the BSA moves into its second century of developing character in youth, the executive leadership team has been rethinking its strategic focus and business model. Why? Because although the organization has roughly 300 local councils serving millions of kids through a wide network of volunteers, its membership has been slowly declining.

Part of the problem was the organization’s approach to strategic thinking. In the past, the BSA has done what many nonprofit organizations have done and just followed the same steps in creating its strategic plan each year, focusing on the areas that are of most interest to it and checking a box when it’s done.

What the BSA wasn’t doing was taking an objective look at the national or council level to determine where it should really be focusing its attention.

To get the whole organization focused on the right stuff, the BSA developed 17 national performance benchmarks based on the Balanced Scorecard methodology. Called the “Journey to Excellence,” this program helps staff and volunteers develop strategies and actions focused on areas that are proven to drive high performance and improve the scouting experience.

Through these performance measures, the entire organization is aligned from the local to national level. Built in to the methodology is the ability to modify and adapt in order to stay relevant to young men and women as they grow up in a radically, rapidly changing environment. As Gary Butler, BSA Assistant Chief Executive for Council Operations said, “It is an exciting time for the Boy Scouts of America.”

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