When Outreach, one of New York’s most respected and largest providers of substance abuse treatment, felt the time was right to update its strategic plan, it didn’t have to think twice about where to turn for assistance.
The National Executive Service Corps had helped Outreach put together a strategic plan in 2006. More recently, NESC consultants had developed a marketing and rebranding plan for the social service agency. So there was a track record, and a high degree of trust that NESC consultants would help Outreach grapple successfully with a number of new challenges.
Among those challenges was new uncertainty about the continuation of government funding, in a time of economic and budgetary austerity.
In previous planning efforts, the focus had been program growth – exploring “different flavors of ice cream” that Outreach might offer, as Neil Sheehan, the nonprofit’s executive vice president, put it.
Now, the organization wanted to focus instead on “how do we maximize the mission with existing resources and people,” he said.
Moreover, the organization realized that several of its senior executives would be retiring in the not-too-distant next few years, and there was not a succession plan in place to ensure that the gaps would be filled with qualified people. NESC consultants sized up the situation quickly and concluded that a major culture change was needed. Outreach had to become “a more dynamic, proactive agency with an ever-stronger capability to anticipate and meet emerging needs” while “maintaining high standards of delivery.”
And that mandate needed to be embraced not just by the top leadership, but by all staff members, at every level of the organization.
To do this, NESC consultants worked with Outreach staff to develop an action plan to communicate the vision, expand professional development opportunities and ensure accountability. The plan also called for a number of major personnel changes, as well as the decentralization of the various training facilities, giving directors more autonomy.
NESC didn’t “go away” after the plan was completed, said Sheehan. The consultants worked with senior staff to ensure the plan was implemented successfully. As a result, “we have seen tremendous strides in changing the organizational culture,” said Sheehan.
In fact, in 2010 and 2011, Outreach was named by Best Companies Society as one of Best Places to Work in New York.
Although Outreach has a highly accomplished senior management team, “having outside eyes – and fresh eyes – helped us a lot,” said Sheehan. NESC is “a good place to go,” he said, “for both the quality and the price.”