The CAPE Cycle

The Very Big Problem of Approaching Strategic Planning as an Event

One of the biggest problems with strategic planning is that it often approached as an event

You may be familiar with this. One of your board members or funders says that "you need a plan". You and your team members then get busy, conduct a planning retreat, and create a well-intentioned plan. 

The problem with this is that since your focus was on creating the plan -- and not also on executing it -- your plan is much more likely to end up on the shelf collecting dust. And, all of the hard work you put into creating a plan ends up for naught. 

The CAPE Cycle 

At Mission Met, we have a different approach. We view strategic planning as a cyclical, never-ending, four-step process that we call the CAPE Cycle. 

As indicated in the graphic below, CAPE is an acronym for the four strategic planning steps: Champion, Assess, Plan, and Execute.

Implementing the CAPE Cycle will ensure that your...

  • ...strategic plan will never collect dust.
  • ...plan will get stronger and stronger over time. 
  • will get better at getting things done, positively impacting all aspects of your organization.

In short, the CAPE Cycle is an ongoing process that will become a part of the way your organization thinks and operates.  

The Four Steps 

Each of the four steps of the cycle should be viewed as verbs: to champion, to assess, to plan, and to execute. 

Step 1 -- Champion:  In this step, one or two people from your organization will commit to “championing” the CAPE Cycle for your organization. They will be called your “overall champions”. As Champions, their role will be to ensure that executing and strengthening your strategic plan becomes an ongoing part of your organization’s operations. 

Step 2 -- Assess:  In Step 2, an assessment of your organization will be conducted. 

Step 3 -- Plan:  In this step, you and your team will review your assessment information from Step 2 and create a simple and focused strategic plan within the Causey strategic planning software. 

Step 4 -- Execute:  This step is all about building the habits and discipline of reviewing, measuring, and revising your plan over time.  

The CAPE Cycle Timeline

For most organizations, a good timeline for the CAPE Cycle is one year. 

To be clear, this doesn’t mean that your strategic plan should necessarily be for one year. (We typically recommend that your plan is for three years in length.) It just means that you have an annualized cycle where you and your team will:

  • Ensure that one or two people are championing your strategic planning.
  • Pause once/year to do some form of an annual assessment.
  • Pause once/year to create and/or revise your plan.
  • Execute your plan on an ongoing basis.

In this way, your strategic planning process is a dynamic and ongoing process of championing, assessing, planning, and executing. 

Using the sample timeline below, that would mean that:

  • At the start of the cycle, one or two people would agree to champion the strategic planning process on behalf of the organization. 
  • In November and December, an organizational assessment would be conducted and a plan created. 
  • Starting in January the plan would begin to be executed over the course of the year. The cycle would then repeat. 

(This timeline is just an example. Your organization’s timeline may begin at another time during the year to better meet your needs.)

By repeating the cycle, your organization will create the strength and momentum to create even greater results and impact. 

A Checklist

This Summary Checklist highlights the essential components of the CAPE cycle.