DISCLAIMER: I’m in my 50’s, I’m a dad, a CEO, and a nerd. I have a Ph.D. in applied behavior analysis, and I’m fascinated by the inner working of our minds. My writing will be sprinkled with geek references, dad jokes, phrases that were barely cool when introduced 10 to 20 years ago, brain science bits, and CEO business babble.

What’s the purpose of this blog? To chronicle the efforts of a non-profit serving people with intellectual disabilities trying to survive and thrive in an ever-changing world. It will be a celebration of our successes and a dissection of our failures. Above all, I’ll be keeping it real. Do people still say that? One sec, let me ask my 16-year-old daughter…I’m back. Her look of pity with a dash of disgust suggests that people don’t say “keep it real” anymore. I don’t care. I’m bringing it back.

First topic is survival planning versus strategic planning. I’m not a big fan of strategic planning. It smacks of trying to tell the future. Maybe I’m just a crappy Nostradamus but we didn’t have a strategic plan for a global pandemic leading into 2020. We missed the boat on the great resignation too. How many organizations started 2023 with a strategic goal on how to take advantage of the AI revolution that is exploding around us? Not us. Side note: Is anyone else going out of their way to be polite to ChatGPT in the hopes that it will remember how nice I was when it decides to go full SkyNet? No? Just me? Ok, back to our regularly scheduled blog post.

Rather than strategic planning, we’ve decided to try survival planning. Most strategic plans end up gathering virtual dust in the cloud somewhere. Strategy is easily rendered obsolete and thrown overboard because most humans suck at prognostication. Survival brings mental focus and motivation. What’s the opposite of survival? Exactly.

We’ve identified three areas of survival planning. Three areas where we need to constantly improve or face obsolescence or worse, extinction. They are:

  • Quality of Life Improvement
  • Staff Retention
  • Service Expansion

Why these areas? It comes down to the questions these areas push us to ask and address.

Quality of Life Improvement

  • Who are our customers?
  • How do we provide a better customer experience?
  • What are we doing to address customer concerns?
  • How much organizational friction do customers experience when interfacing with us (fancy business speak for how many hoops do people need to jump through to get concerns, needs or problems addressed)?

Staff Retention

  • Do we see our staff as one of our core customer groups? (We better!)
  • Do we know our staff and what matters to them?
  • Are we delivering on what matters to them?
  • Are we supporting them to do what we need them to do?
  • Are we identifying and recognizing the people who consistently show up and do good work?

Service Expansion

  • Are we providing the services that the people we serve, and their families, want and need?
  • Are we providing services that our funders want and need?
  • Are we creating services that fit the person or are we forcing the person to fit our services?

We’ve been asking ourselves these questions and the answers are as scary as a hoard of brain eating zombies shambling towards us. But that’s the power of survival planning. Few emotions spark innovation and execution like a fear for our organizational lives. I hope you join us as we chronicle this journey and fight to overcome our metaphorical zombies, all while keeping it real. (See how I brought it all together in the end?)

Next up: Why the 80/20 Rule is BS.