Post by Chaz Thorne
“Strategy” is probably the most overused and least understood word in organizational culture. At one point in time, every single one of you has rolled your eyes after being informed of an upcoming “strategic planning session”. This contempt has been well earned.
Everyone gets together and bats some ideas around. If consultants are engaged, maybe a large report is generated with lots of data and some colorful charts. If facilitated well, it may even be fun! However, all too often, nothing fundamentally changes. The energy that may have been palpable in the room quickly dissipates into the ether.
Though there may be a litany of reasons for this ranging from apathy to entrenchment, often times it comes down to an issue of process. That is, the foundation on which the strategy development was built was flawed from the beginning and doomed to fail.
Beyond Keeping The Lights On
In our work at The Give Agency we find ourselves frequently working with non-profit and charitable organizations whose resources are increasingly stretched thin as they compete with more and more causes all battling to engage the same audiences. For many of these groups, having the time and focus to be able to do strategic planning is a luxury. However, the sustainability proper planning provides is imperative for their survival.
We don’t believe in wasting anyone’s time. Not our non-profit/charitable clients’ and our sponsors’, and certainly not our many “Givers’” who volunteer their time and ideas for a day to help these vital organizations. Though it is extremely enjoyable to get together a collective of really smart people and dream up dozens of great ideas that is not the point of The Give Agency. To create the real change we are striving for, these groups need to be able to successfully implement the ideas we provide.
The Importance of M.U.S.E.
To make sure we accomplish our stated aim of real change, we apply a level of discipline to our process utilizing a framework we developed called M.U.S.E. (I know, strategists love acronyms…) M.U.S.E. is the gauntlet that every recommendation we make must successfully run.
If a recommendation is not measurable there is no way of knowing its effectiveness or how it may be adjusted to bring about greater success as new information is revealed. A word of caution here: quantitative measurements are not the only metrics that matter. Sometimes the creative development of “soft metrics” is required to measure things like societal or cultural impacts.
Ideas need to be shared with a variety of people throughout the organization with varying backgrounds and skill sets to achieve buy-in. As a result, they should be written in straightforward and approachable language. Graphic representations of strategy have also been shown to greatly increase retention and understanding.
Recommendations need to come from somewhere. When a path is proposed that was inspired by a successful implementation in another organization or industry that justification should be highlighted. Creative “benchmarking” is often the most powerful form of idea generation. This does not rule out “blue sky” thinking due to the uniqueness of a challenge. In the case of truly original thought, propositions should still be substantiated with an argument as to why there is a belief in this particular course of action.
Though ambitious goals are important, there is no point in presenting recommendations that are outside the realities of what the client has the ability to accomplish. The first step is to look to make the most of present resources unless an opportunity with an extremely promising return exists to justify increased financial investment or capability acquisition.
At The End of the Day…
Once all is said in done, we are not the ones who bring the ideas our Givers and we provide to life. That responsibility ultimately rests with the client organization. However, by applying discipline to the process with M.U.S.E. we are significantly increasing the likelihood of successful implementation.
The fundamental goal is to allow these wonderful organizations to keep the lights on and shining for those they serve. In doing so, they are making our communities that much brighter.