the 10-3-1-3

Harnessing the power of shared purpose through our strategic intent

at some point, every organization develops a strategic plan

It feels like an important thing to do. A central document to guide the team’s work and give individuals a clear roadmap.

What we’ve found is that strategic plans rarely work. They tend to be static documents that meet a need for executive boards and stakeholders, but they rarely guide the day-to-day efforts of organizations as intended. Too often, they are introduced in a flashy launch and then promptly filed on a shelf.

Strategic plans are designed to provide a sense of certainty. They measure a single point in time and document the organization’s direction at that moment. But, just like nature is constantly evolving, life in organizations doesn’t stay the same. Organizations need a way to respond to a changing environment, while maintaining their principles and following their vision.

Here at Civilla, we use a strategic intent instead of a strategic plan. We want to orient the team around a shared purpose, while leaving space for individuals to put their strengths, passions, and energy to work towards a common vision.

The framework for our strategic intent is called the 10-3-1-3. Here's what it looks like in practice:

the 10-3-1-3

The 10-3-1-3 framework helps us ensure long-term visions are connected to short-term actions while allowing the team to adapt and respond to changing circumstances.

10-3-1-3 stands for 10 years, 3 years, 1 year, 3 months. Across each of these timelines, we set goals across different aspects of the organization. Here’s why these timeframes are helpful for our team:

  • 10 years is far enough out that the intent is aspirational, not defined
  • 3 years is a timeframe people can hold on to and see themselves in
  • 1 year begins to build a sense of greater accountability
  • 3 months is for clarity, focus, and urgency

A strategic intent allows the Civilla team to have a sense of the organization’s broad priorities alongside the immediate steps we need to take to reach those goals. It serves as a compass for decision-making for individuals and the group as a whole.

a rhythm of reflection and feedback

We gather as a team each week to read our strategic intent aloud. We also revisit it at the end of each season. This creates a feedback loop so we can make changes and gauge our progress.

For individuals, the guiding principle is “if you can’t see how your current work ladders up to the 3 month strategic intent, you should raise a red flag.” This ensures the 10-3-1-3 is directly connected to our daily efforts and won’t gather dust on a shelf like so many strategic plans.

putting it into practice

We’ve found the 10-3-1-3 framework to be a powerful tool for the short and long-term health of our team. Here’s how your team can start using strategic intent to guide your work:

  1. Create 10-3-1-3 goals, either for yourself or for a larger group
  2. Make your goals easily accessible so you can live with them every day. Consider putting them on the wall in your physical space.
  3. Build a regular rhythm to review them as a team. Everyone should be familiar with the goals and feel like they play an important role in reaching them.
  4. Evolve your goals based on feedback and changing conditions. Build in regular feedback loops and time to make adjustments so your strategic intent stays relevant and useful.

Have you tried something similar at your organization? Do you have ways to make strategic plans flexible and useful? We’d love to hear what’s worked for you.