Tactical Thinking

Most people acknowledge that boards should think strategically and the staff should think operationally. If that is true, who should do the tactical thinking and what is tactical thinking?

In simple terms, strategic thinking develops the reasons or “why” behind an organization’s actions. “We set these goals because we want to reduce hunger in our community by 10% in the next 5 years.”

Operational thinking is the development of the “what” we must do to reach the goals the board has established. “We are going to teach people about urban gardening and canning their abundance General hashtag linkage to COVID-19 Pandemic for use over the winter.”

Tactical thinking answers the question, “How will we do what we need to do?”

Since tactical thinking is between strategic and operational thinking, it makes sense that the board committees do the tactical thinking. The board committees are where the board members and senior staff members collaborate. This is where the technical expertise of the board members is used (marketing, accounting, technology, HR, etc.). The board meeting is where the judgment, wisdom, and experience of the board member is applied to the long-range needs of the nonprofit.

In the preceding example, the staff might ask the board’s  programming committee for ideas (How do we enable the urban gardening?). After careful thought and investigation, the committee might suggest acquiring abandon lots in select neighborhoods.

Of course, the preceding paragraph assumes that board recruiting was intentional and the programming committee contains individuals who have appropriate expertise. Many times this is where the process breaks down. The reason for the breakdown is the board focuses on recruiting the willing rather than recruiting the willing and able. The process would be more successful if it focused on finding the willing with mission enabling skills.


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