Feb 27, 2013

The Developmental Sequence of Strategy

Often, when we show up on site for a strategic planning, generative thinking, or other strategy engagement with a client, we are already armed with a lot of facts about the school or college.  We’ve done our homework, created our research inputs, and sorted out the client early in the strategy formation process.  So, we have a pretty good idea on what might be the next steps for the client.  

Sometimes during our ensuing discussions, out of left field, comes a suggestion from a steering committee member, trustee, or faculty type to create a really different strategy or goal.  You know – the sort of suggestion that fundamentally alters the mission or vision of the organization.  A game-changer of sorts.  The suggestion might be interesting and even well-received by others, but it may not be founded on the current situation the school or college faces.  When pressed on supplying the rationale for this strategy, the advocate may suggest that it will provide more demand, greater visibility, or an enhanced program offering.  

I have come to learn that organizations, just like people, possess a developmental sequence.  There is a right time to enact certain decisions.  And, there is a wrong time to do so.  They key is to create solutions that match the problem or reality.  If the school or college is running at high demand levels, near capacity, possesses operating reserves, and has high levels of satisfaction among clients, I suggest that an appropriate response would be a strategy of modest change.  If, on the other hand, the bottom is falling out, demand is waning, and clients are highly dissatisfied, a more aggressive response might be needed, especially if it is grounded in the research.

Good strategy development reads the “chapter and page” of an organization, it’s operating context, and responds accordingly.  Don’t confuse activity with meaning – create strategies that match your organizational needs,  not the whim of a well-intentioned community member.

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