How to Develop a Strategy for Your Non-Profit or Social Enterprise (Part 4)

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Afro young woman sitting at the table in a home office, using laptop.

We continue this week with part 4 of Strategy Development. In the last article (part 3), we covered the when strategy should be developed (Timing), and how to tell when an organization has strategy.

If you are just joining us and haven’t read the previous articles yet, you might want to catch up on those before continuing with this one so that we can both be on the same page. Click here to read part 1 and here to read part 2.

So lets dive into today’s article as we look into if developing a strategy is a guarantee of success and when strategy fails, what next?

Is developing a strategy a Guarantee of success?

Given that strategy has become such a buzzword in the world of business, now everyone has made it a priority to develop one. It’s tempting to think that having a strategy will automatically guarantee success. But this is not really the case.

That your strategy will guarantee success is a function of whether it is a good strategy or not. The effectiveness of the strategy is what will guarantee whether it will lead to success or not and not just about having a strategy. Having a strategy is not enough. In other words, the quality of your strategy counts.

Only a good strategy can lead to success. If it doesn’t lead you to success, it is not a good strategy. For instance, if your organization didn’t use insights gathered from the people in the company to develop a strategy, then that’s a bad strategy. Developing a strategy based on your personal feelings rather than insights is a recipe for a bad strategy. It will fail.

Some schools of thoughts believe that there can be a good strategy and a poor execution. As a matter of fact, this is a popular opinion, but personally, I very much disagree with this. From experience, I’ve come to learn that execution is part of strategy. If your execution is wrong or poor, then your strategy was wrong or poor because execution is not outside of your strategy. Your strategy should and must include your execution. Strategy is encompassing and execution should be one of the most important parts of your strategy.

Since strategy is a process of getting somewhere, how you make those moves become very crucial and that is essentially what we call execution. So how then should it be left out of strategy development? That’s why I struggle coming to terms with the popular opinion that you can have a good strategy but bad execution. No, I don’t agree.

Rather, what you have when you don’t properly take execution into account is an incomplete strategy. This doesn’t mean your execution was bad, it only means your strategy wasn’t complete to start with. The execution aspect of your strategy was missing from the beginning. And this is what leads to failure or a very shallow success.

This means sustainability becomes an issue because sustainability is hinged on consistent execution. This will impact the level of support you will get from your donors because they donate to see results. When these results aren’t forthcoming, they withhold their donations. Donors donate to increase the impact your are making or be part of the impact you are making.

When strategy fails, what next?

When strategy fails, your first step is to boldly admit it. One of the challenges of being a founder is coming to terms with failure. This is a human challenge. You don’t have to wait for things to get so bad before you give in to the reality of a failed strategy. You have to be bold enough to accept the painful reality of failure when it happens.

It’s easier to identify a failing strategy early on before it gets too bad when you have put your KPIs in place. You shouldn’t wait till the end of the year to know that you aren’t meeting up your quarterly goals. By then it is already getting too late to correct course. This brings us again to the whole strategy development process. The KPIs are early pointers of success or failure and must be included in the strategy.

When you are progressively declining, your KPIs will inform you early enough. This is why people who get their strategy right often find it easy to say NO to some things. On the outside it might look like an ideal partnership or deal for the organization, but to them, they know it doesn’t align with their strategy.

A Strategic Organization: Mental Health Foundation (MHF)

An example of an organization that is very strategic is mental health foundation. In trying to help people take their mental health seriously, they erroneously started driving people away from their cause. The message of warning people about the early signs of madness ended up turning people off.

So they had to change their messaging to advocating for people to take their mental wellbeing more seriously in order to be more productive in life and work. This was more positively embraced than their earlier messaging of warning people about madness. No one wants to be labeled mad not even the mad person!

Conclusion

In both parts of this step one of the leverage impact program, strategy development we haven’t covered how to actually develop a strategy. The very process of developing a strategy has been deliberately left out till the ‘Do it yourself’ (DIY) phase of the program. That’s where you will get hands on and put to use all the knowledge gained from the part one and two of this step.

So if you haven’t yet subscribed, here is a compelling reason to do so now!

You don’t want to miss out on the DIY phase of this program.

 

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