Strategic Questions

When it Comes Down to it


What is your enterprise signature move?  Now, what does the community associates with your cause?  What would a person on the street say when asked about your organization?  Why not go ask around?  It is not about what you think you are best at but rather what your cause is perceived as being uniquely aligned to deliver.

The biggest challenge for most enterprises lies in the difference between what they think they do exceptionally well and what the community perceives.  How can a cause effectively plan, market, budget, program, invest, align when clarity is lacking?

Perhaps asking a simple ‘what do you know about …..’ may be the most important question to ask this year.

If We Are Wrong?

At the 2011 BoardSource Leadership Forum, Richard Chait suggested that enterprises ask themselves, “what if we are wrong?”  He suggested that we review the assumptions the leadership of the cause has assembled.  What if the organization’s game plan is using a playbook with the wrong strategy?  If we have made the wrong assumptions all the dedicated work will still lead to a failed outcome.  

Telling me to Think

“Don’t tell me how many times to think” Homer Simpson
Who is the guardian of your organization’s inquisitiveness?  Does the entire team ask the questions that need to be asked?  Is there a single voice?  Are thoughtful questioning embedded into the culture of your cause?  Does your enterprise maintain core strategic screens that prove a disciplined way of addressing the core issues before take substantive action?

Great Question

I had the pleasure of facilitating an advisory session for a growing company that provides essential back office services for social sector organizations.  One of the session attendees asked a compelling question of the leadership team, ‘if you could work for another company, who would it be and why?’  His query sent me on a mental job hunt.  Who would I want to work for?  What do I perceive to be valuable in another enterprise?  Is what that organization posses tangible or intangible?  If it is concrete then it is probably easy to import to my company.  Better base salary, more generous vacation package, dynamic social media presence, more donors.   Where it gets tricky is when the thing you value is abstract.  Another cause’s sense of purpose, organizational culture, collegiality of the team, sense of significance, identity.  It is often these intangible pieces that serves as the gatekeeper between good and remarkable.

Which organization/cause would you want to work for and why?

Give or Get?

Is it is truly about what we give and not what we get?  It is a powerful idea.  What would be the central focus of your organization if you measured success and effectiveness based on what you gave?  Would it be different from what you do today?  As donors, how much of their contributions are driven by the stated and intangible benefits?  Are we encouraging transactions or gifts?  Does a strategic plan prioritize a program that is favored by a funder?  Does the board meet when it best serves the organization or because it convenient to the board members?  Do we compensate staff based on what they contribute to the organization or only based on benchmarks?  Do we ask our volunteers what talent they most enjoy contributing or do we simply assign them to the next available project?  Do we ask what the CEO what inspires them to give or do we ask them only to get?

What if we asked what does our enterprise have to give?  What if what we have to give became the driving message of our campaigns?

So much of the social sector seems driven by what we can get?  What grant can we secure, what board member can we get to join, what program will increase the organizations revenue the most?  

Perhaps we can remember to focus on what we have to give.  Somebody founded the organization because they had a vision of what they could give.

One Hundred

One hundredth post- thank you for reading and providing your input. I appreciate having the venue to share ideas and resources. I am off to the the One Hundred Acre Woods for a short walkabout and a chance to generate new ideas. I offer a couple global questions as I shoulder the backpack.

What is not going to change in your enterprise?

During your tenure at your current organization, what is the one thing that must be accomplished?

If your enterprise could learn one ‘new step’ (skill), what would it be?

What question needs to be answered before you can proceed?

Have a great adventure today!

Blame Storming

A bit of humor to start the week and a reminder that strategic planning can go wrong. I have participated in planning sessions that verged on ‘blame storming.’ One of the techniques that seems to be effective in altering the blaming process comes from Tony Robbins. I ask three questions, when I see a group focusing on a micro details that are not going to be the cornerstone in establishing a strategic vision. First, what outcome is the group trying to achieve (describe what success looks like)? Next, describe why reaching this outcome important (get clarity about the emotional investment in achieving success)? Third, what are the key action steps that need to be taken (now I am seeking more detail)? This technique seems to help raise the conversation to an altitude of 30,000 feet (outcome) and then work back down to the ground-level (key details). Now enjoy a short video of what comes easiest to many people when frustrations run high.

A New Perspective on the 4th

Sometimes you see something that alters you understanding of how things work. I just saw this brief video clip and played it 3 times. Perhaps this upstages any firework show. I now have a new appreciation for volcanoes. I reminds me of the quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes, “The mind, once expanded to the dimensions of larger ideas, never returns to its original size.

What has expanded your mind recently?