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Wednesday, August 1, 2018

LESSON 37 - Don’t Stretch Credulity With BHAGs and Stretch Goals

Welcome to Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom Blog, a 40-week journey through the new book, Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom, by Dan Busby and John Pearson. Each Wednesday, we're featuring a guest writer’s favorite snippet from the week's topic. David Schmidt is our guest blogger this week for the fourth of seven lessons in "Part 11: Boards That Lead and Boards That Read.”

LESSON 37 OF 40 - Don’t Stretch Credulity With BHAGs and Stretch Goals
The actual achievement of audacious goals is very uncommon.

THE BIG IDEA FROM THE BOOK: Stretch goals come easily and naturally for energized leaders, but buyer beware. Every stretch goal needs to be tested. Where does it fit into our overall plan? What is driving it? Why this stretch goal now? Because the CEO is new or wants to leave with a legacy milestone? The ministry needs a miracle?  

The board is responsible to be sure goals, big and small, come from sound strategic thinking processes guided by God’s Spirit.  

MY FAVORITE INSIGHTS from Lesson 37, pages 189-192: 
 Stretch goals are nearly impossible goals often proposed by the CEO—like a moon shot.”
• “So it’s no wonder that some ministries employ stretch goals as a magical formula to ‘resuscitate or transform an ailing’ strategy.”  

I recall a client leader who called an unscheduled breakfast meeting for his direct reports and me as consultant. He shared that in the middle of the night he couldn’t sleep—and in his wakefulness—had determined their organization should set a goal to quadruple their donations revenue. He was a passionate and well-meaning leader who for the most part was pragmatic.  But on this occasion, those of us who loved and respected him suspected his vision in the night was more likely the result of heartburn from the spicy dinner we all shared the evening before.

Stretch goals always need to be vetted and the board is on point to exercise its role appropriately to “trust but verify” what administration brings to it. This protects the staff and the ministry from disorder down the road.

Always—we must test motives and drivers when setting goals. Pride and fear can easily disguise themselves as bold leadership.
Proverbs 24:3-4 helps us here in vetting what seems like a stretch goal: “Any enterprise is built by wise planning, becomes strong through common sense, and profits wonderfully by keeping abreast of the facts (TLB).”


David Schmidt is an organizational development consultant who has served nonprofits in the faith-based sector for the past 40 years. He focuses on equipping leaders and organizations to think strategically and lay plans that deliver measurable results. You can learn more about him at his Wise Planning website here.

• If there is a stretch goal floating around in your organization, this is a good time to “trust but verify.”
• How up to date and effective is your strategic plan? If it needs attention, get some outside help.  A strong, working strategic plan makes stretch goals easier to evaluate. 


On Aug. 8, 2018, watch for the commentary by Kent Stroman on Lesson 38, "Great Boards Delegate Their Reading. Deputize a 'Leaders Are Readers Champion.'"

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