OPTIONS… OPTIONS… OPTIONS
When we conduct a comprehensive review of our internal realities, the current “sandbox” we operate within, and a scan of the Future Operating Environment, the “music” emanating from such a review should give us a clue as to what might be our Strategic Options going forward. For example:
1. Is there enough “fuel in the tank” if we continue down the same path? What must we perhaps change, enhance or expand?
2. Is there a potential knock-out punch on the horizon and we must change course or risk becoming irrelevant?
3. What if we explore a new direction as the “music” is pointing us to, to take our organisation to the next level of Distinct Relevance?
Like the red, blue and green houses on the left, your Strategic Options and their corresponding Scenarios are like artist impressions – they give form to or a sketch of what the potential end states (the Future Strategic Profile of your organisation) could look like – in terms of what will drive our future strategy, our “business” concept and model, our areas of distinction, guidelines for our allocation of resources, and how we will measure success, amongst others.
WHERE WILL EACH PATH TAKE US?
How do we assess the merits of each potential Strategic Option? We ask:
a. Which of your existing major skills and capabilities do these potential strategic options take advantage of?
b. Equally and what some find intimidating about change is “what new skills and capabilities that you currently do not possess, will this potential strategy require?”
c. Also, slightly different from the above, “what difficulties will we face implementing this strategy?”, for example the intangible but nonetheless need for mindset shifts, or the endorsement of founding leaders/ long-serving members.
d. Amongst other questions, we also ask “which of our major opportunities does this strategy capitalise on?”
e. “Which of the major threats does this strategy help us avoid or minimise?”
f. What timeframe will be required to implement this strategy and get where we want to be?
Ultimately we are trying to find out “Is this strategy viable for us? Why?”.
FORGING A SHARED STRATEGY
Strategy cannot be something that exists only in the head of the CEO. People do not implement well that which they do not understand nor own. It is our belief that strategy is best formulated with those charged with stewarding and implementing it, usually at the Board and senior staff leadership level, and the process of developing and assessing Strategic Options and corresponding Scenarios sound, structured, and rigorous.
While some teams may choose to do this 100% internally (while still consulting with external stakeholders), others engage the expertise of a external facilitator especially when they want to be challenged with an external perspective or value the neutrality s/he might bring. In any case, we say it must be YOUR strategy, not the consultant’s, and co-created by YOUR very people, who know your organisation best.
So, the question begs – how do we know which Strategic Option to go with? Sometimes, one stands out as the clear winner, sometimes you take the one that has the most merit and you add on the strengths of the other Options. Other times, you find that one is a clear shorter-term strategy while the organisation builds itself up to embrace a longer term strategy or change in driving force that will raise its level ofrelevance and uplift its subsector.
Regardless, change is something we must all embrace even in this sector. And Strategy must not be a “dead” and thick document that sits on the shelves collecting dust. Our processes must provide the agility to engage the right stakeholders, respond to changes in the internal and external environment as they unfold and rolled-out literally the very next day. Programmes may fail and so do strategies. Don't be afraid to “kill” them (which is especially the case in the social services sector), re-strategise, re-organise and advance!
‘Standing at the Crossroads.....’ is the sixth of an article series from DPI Asia to aid Non-profits in their strategic thinking and provide food for thought and reflection.
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