Working with Erin Sedor of Black Fox Strategy for the past two years has been an amazing experience. During our strategic planning sessions in 2019 and 2020, Erin professionally guided our board and senior management staff through a series of visioning exercises to meet the ongoing challenges our organization faces, while at the same time helping us recognize our inherent strengths and tremendous progress. She is a skilled facilitator, who can synthesize varied sources of information and input in real-time. Erin produces strong visual and written products, which guides our organization in the form of our strategic plan. We value our partnership with Black Fox Strategy and look forward to many more effective planning sessions.
- Dr. Jessica Black, Fairbanks Native Association Board President
What We Do
We guide executive teams and Board Directors through all phases of long and short-term strategic planning efforts.
Our goal is to contribute to a strategic mindset and discipline that will allow for long-term sustainability of the organization so that it may pursue and fulfill its stated purpose.
Why We Do It
It’s done so badly so often, and it really doesn’t have to be.
Strategic planning is a fundamental element and necessary process within any organization. It allows leaders to examine and clearly articulate why the organization exists and how to move it through a continual cycle of growth and evolution. The resulting plan communicates this purpose (the why), where we want to go in alignment with that purpose, and how we will need to navigate and evolve to ensure success.
Unfortunately, the process often falls short of these ideals. The organization’s purpose may be vague or lack an element of true contribution, the plan for growth ignores critical weaknesses in capabilities, and a lack of urgency in building resilience inhibits necessary evolution.
When these core elements lack synergy, we see stereotypical issues (and attitudes) around the planning process and the organization’s ability to implement strategy.
How many of these pain points sound familiar?
"Our strategic plan needs updating but the last one just sat on the shelf"
"Everything has changed so our plan is no longer relevant"
"Our vision and/or mission is not aligned with who we are today"
"What we do day-to-day makes us money but doesn’t really address our vision"
The key to successful strategic planning is to understand that it is a discipline – not a process. Planning efforts must pull the team into a space that challenges the status quo; the resulting plan must be clear and well-balanced, intelligent and responsive, pragmatic yet inspirational.
An organization is simply a term for an organized collection of people, aligned for a common cause to accomplish specific, intended results. The entity itself cannot accomplish anything without the collective effort, creativity and insight of all involved, just as a strategic plan cannot accomplish the intent of the words on the paper without that same collective action of the people it’s intended to guide.
Our Philosophy and Approach
Strategy, at its best, is adaptive and evolutionary. It requires adaptive and evolutionary thinkers, who are willing and able to reveal that path to all others involved, who are then able to contribute their own effort in whatever capacity they fill. This is an ongoing and ever-evolving process. It requires leaders to provide the confidence and clarity to move the organization forward in a synchronized and efficient way, providing meaningful contribution while making incremental progress toward vision.
This is performance excellence.
Achieving excellence starts with strategy, and strategy is a discipline. It must be practiced continually - outside of any canned, regurgitated process of meaningless SWOT exercises and unmeasurable goal setting that is not only painful to endure, but often a complete waste of time.
We believe that true organizational success lies in three simple truths:
First, an entity must have and pursue a purpose defined by vision, values, and contribution.
Second, it must be intentional about the growth of the organization and its people.
Third, it must continually adapt and evolve to meet the needs and wants of those it serves.
Intuitive leaders know that they must achieve this balance of vision, growth, and resilience, but often, it’s the mechanism to create and sustain that balance that we find elusive. What we discovered is that often, the discussions (and subsequent actions taken) around purpose, growth and evolution become disconnected and lose their relationship to each other. It is this lack of equilibrium that creates blind spots and gaps in strategy execution.
We address this with a fourth element that we call the vital junction – vitju for short – where we recognize the inherent connection between purpose, growth, and evolution. This fourth element brings flexibility and balance in a continually changing environment and catalyzes intentional prioritization that supports true agility.
We call this Essential Strategy. It is an approach that simplifies strategy and risk planning to achieve remarkable clarity, focus, and actionability regardless of the size or complexity of the organization.
How We Deliver Better Outcomes
Your strategy is how you articulate your purpose to the world, your destination to your employees, and your measures of success to your team. Our job is not to do it for you – our job is to add our expertise to yours, revealing new perspectives and opportunities to help you do what you do even better.
We don’t “off the shelf” anything. We work hard to customize every aspect of our projects, with actionable outcomes and clear direction that makes sense to you.
Every tool and system has value – we will work with you to optimize whatever you already have in place to create synergy without reinventing the wheel.
We believe in action-oriented outcomes, so you get not only our recommendations, but a prioritized action plan to help you take the next step.
You need good return on your investment, so we will show you how to define and measure real success on the project.
We expect participation. Nothing we do will work without your involvement so we will all be rolling up our sleeves together.
Strategy typically falls down in pre-planning assessment and in implementation planning – our process pays particular attention to both these areas. What makes our method different is the fact that we understand how strategy, risk and resilience interplay and connect and we use this to define mission critical priorities to improve both focus and execution.
As we’ve said before, we don’t believe in one-size-fits-all, so every project designed is unique to the client.
Our Project Delivery Process
Our project delivery approach is designed around four distinct stages - Discovery, Alignment, Pathfinding and Performance. Each one varies in depth and focus based on the unique needs of the organization, and sometimes they happen in a different order or concurrently depending on circumstance.
Our deep expertise in risk and resilience is where we help our clients gain real value during each of these phases – we know how to dig in, ask tough questions and pull out hidden opportunities.
Discovery is an intelligence-gathering phase focused on assessment of capabilities, risk appetite, market drivers, internal agility, past performance and more. It helps us define gaps that need special attention.
Alignment is where we determine if what you do is going to get you where you want to go. We look at how well the organization is in-sync with the plan, and in particular, we focus on finding and resolving any disconnects between the governance (board, council, owners) and leadership.
Pathfinding is the problem-solving stage of our process where the data gained in Discovery is combined with outputs of Alignment to create an ideal environment for strategic decision-making. This is where the magic happens - where you build discipline over paper plans.
Performance is where the plan to execute the strategy is created and is one of the most critical (yet overlooked) elements of strategic planning. Realistic and feasible goals, metrics and targets are defined to accomplish the work with particular attention to communication, capacity constraints and culture fit.