The Jerry Maguire School of Strategic Planning

I assume, which is always a dangerous thing, that you watched Tom Cruise play Jerry Maguire in the movie by that name. Jerry becomes enlightened and goes through an epiphany of sorts and pulls an all-nighter writing his 27 page Mission Statement, that for all intents and purposes is a strategic plan — no one writes a 27 page mission statement. If it really takes 27 pages to articulate a mission there are some serious business issues to work out.

So, let’s go on the assumption that Jerry’s mission statement is really a strategic plan.

The plan that he wrote not only turned heads, it also got him fired. But he was a successful businessman with nothing to lose. He had a swagger coupled with a sense of right and wrong and ideas that he just had to put down on paper and broadcast to the world.

He had the a-ha moment we all are waiting for in our life. The difference is that once he had the eureka moment he didn’t waste any time articulating it and putting his money where his mouth is — he went ahead and wrote it, printed many copies,  and distributed them throughout the company.

Although it’s never 100% clear what the thrust of the document is, it is clear though, that he presented a BHAG of some sort. (BHAG = Big Hairy Audacious Goal). An idea that rattled the suits in the corner offices to step back and either get scared of Jerry’s change of heart (he was questioning the business model and the ethics of the company presumably) or think he was crazy.

Most likely though, the document was simply too forward thinking, too ground-breaking, too paradigm shifting, and too counter to the status quo that he was ostracized and fired for his actions.

There are two lessons here for me:

  1. A strategic plan must to be bold and visionary. It must rock the foundations of the business model and challenge the status quo. No nonprofit can play it safe anymore – these complex times we live in require daring and innovative thinking, intelligent planning and aggressive execution. Plus, the organization must remain flexible and always prepared for plan-B.
  2. The people behind the strategic plan must be bold and visionary. Successful nonprofits can’t write, prepare, plan, or execute a bold and visionary strategic plan unless they (the people working and the company and writing the plan) are bold and visionary themselves . Nonprofits cannot succeed if they continue to embrace business cultures that hinder, and even obstruct, ground-breaking and innovative thought. They need people that are strong willed, inquisitive, collaborative, entrepreneurial, intuitive and perhaps a bit like Jerry Maguire. A person that acts like they have nothing to lose!!

So, let’s start a ground-swell movement to create nonprofit organizations that aren’t afraid of the future, but are trying new things, getting rid of the old things that don’t work, embracing transformational change, looking for new ways of doing business and most importantly — never, ever giving into the status quo or mediocrity.