Carl J. Cox, author, and CEO of 40Strategy.com, discusses his book “Lost at CEO” and the reasons why nonprofit strategies often fail and flounder. “Lost at CEO” follows the journey of a character named Jack, who is stuck in a difficult situation. Carl emphasizes that strategies should be simple and can help guide nonprofit organizations from an original point to a new destination. He explains that the book takes a different approach than most business texts by incorporating emotion and storytelling to engage readers on a deeper level.
The discussion begins with acknowledging the limited time and attention given to strategic planning in nonprofits. Carl reveals that only about 40 hours per year are typically spent on strategic planning, which includes retreats, plan development, and quarterly review meetings. He highlights the need to shift this approach by incorporating modern research and tools to make the most out of the limited time available.
The conversation then explores the topic of habits and the challenge of changing behaviors. Carl explains that facts alone do not necessarily change behaviors, as people often engage in actions, they know are not beneficial. He stresses the importance of emotional connection and buy-in from staff members to drive successful strategy implementation. By involving staff in the strategic planning process and allowing them to contribute to the solution, they feel a sense of ownership and commitment, resulting in greater engagement and positive outcomes.
Carl introduces the concept of 10-week sprints, which involve working on small tactics each week to ensure progress towards strategic goals. These sprints allow for adjustments and iteration along the way. He also suggests implementing “power hours,” dedicated time for focused work without interruptions, to enhance productivity and reduce stress. Having a supervisor or colleague review progress and hold individuals’ accountable further increases effectiveness.
The fast-paced interview concludes with discussions on involving teams in strategic planning and the importance of incorporating staff members’ insights. Carl advises engaging the team in finding solutions and reviewing the strategy beyond the boardroom, encouraging leaders to empower their teams by including them in the decision-making process, which leads to better alignment, commitment, and successful execution