“As military strategist Shun Tzu observed, it is victory, and not mere perseverance, that is the essential goal of any battle”

Have you ever noticed how many nonprofit organization’s and businesses pat themselves on the back for their perseverance? Enduring is noble, heroic, creates legends and is written about in history. It does not always mean that it is the most effective way to reach an outcome or goal. I have recently received numerous emails from social enterprise organizations highlighting their determination during difficult times. These narratives certainly stir emotions but they make me wonder if I am supporting an organization that is closer to its sunset than sunrise.

One of the strategies outlined by Hartmut Esslinger in his book a fine line is “The Fourth Line: Building Strategic Reserves.” He recalls how Caesar kept a fourth line of army hidden in the trees during a military battle. The fourth line was the ultimate strategy for success since the enemy was not expecting the reserves to appear. During more difficult economic times and challenges to programs and services, this is the time to reveal the fourth line. These are the organizations that seems to be thriving. Hartmut talks about Steve Jobs return to Apple and how he quickly changed the business model of the company without revealing the product that defined their sector such as the iPod, iTunes, and iPhone. Once each of these were launched they owned the marketplace and the competitors reacted with sloppy replicas at best.

How is your organization thriving? Do you have a fourth line? Are you persevering and enduring or are you thriving?

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