Reimagining Strategy in the Context of the COVID-19 Crisis: A Triage Tool

Sketching out new ideas and possibilities

The COVID-19 crisis and the accompanying social and economic changes that have emerged (and will continue to emerge) stand to reorder community priorities and fundamentally reshape the work of community institutions and initiatives. In this chaotic time, community leaders must begin to reorient themselves to the new reality and make choices about what’s needed and what’s possible going forward. Reorienting is not a simple matter; it’s an iterative process. In this post, I am sharing a tool I created to help leaders begin or refine that process. 

For some of us, it may be tempting to look at our portfolio of work and say simply, “we will pause X, Y, and Z until this is over.” If this is where you are, here are two things to keep in mind: 1) No one knows how long this disruption will last, and as leaders we have to respond to the moment. We cannot pause everything. We have to reimagine how to deliver on our mission in this time. 2) The reality is that “when this is over,” we will be in a world quite different from the one that produced our pre-COVID plans, and we need to adjust accordingly. What seemed so compelling in January 2020 may hold little value in January 2021.

Keep an open mind and heart as you reflect on how to shape your work over the next few months. Reexamine your core assumptions. Did your affordable housing strategy assume a hot market? Did your leadership development program assume intensive in-person sessions with lots of time for informal relationship building? If the assumptions underlying your strategies have changed (a little or a lot), it might be useful to reimagine your work and imagine what else is needed. This tool will help you do that. Then you will need to make space for the impact of the changes and shifts that come into focus. We are all working on letting go and adjusting; we are all in the midst of deep adaptive changes. Recognize the losses even as you pivot to the emerging future.

Below you will find an annotated tool, a sample toola blank tool template, and instructions for facilitating group use of the tool. Stay encouraged, and if you use the tool, please let me know what you learn, so we can all keep refining the tool (send your thoughts to marian@strategylift.com).

Annotated Strategy Triage Tool

The Triage Tool is a simple five square. The tool first invites you to define a guiding question or line of sight that points toward your aspiration for impact in this moment. After you’ve established your guiding question, use the tool to sort your plans/work/strategies into the different categories. It may take several rounds, but once the sorting is complete, step back, reflect, and begin to prioritize short- and mid-term work planning accordingly.

Annotated Strategy Triage Tool

*From 4th Quadrant Partners: “Line of sight refers to maintaining an unobstructed vision from current decisions and actions to the ultimate desired outcome. Line of Sight gives a group a way to keep testing progress against something clear, real and concrete, such that they can see progress rather than getting caught in the weeds. It helps avoid conflating strategies and outcomes (e.g., collaboration for collaboration’s sake).”

Sample Strategy Triage ToolSample Strategy Triage Tool

Download:

Transforming investment in communities

CCI is supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The California Endowment, and The Annie E. Casey Foundation.

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