SKILLFUL MEANS INC
STRATEGY & ORGANIZATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Institutional strategy development consistently suffers from two flaws:
firstly, we fail to adequately articulate the richness and complexity of the strategy environment and fail to identify the forces which will buffet and threaten our abilities to achieve our goals.
secondly -- and particularly in fields focusing on social change -- we fail to think rigorously about the appropriate larger goals (the impact which we can in fact achieve), we fail to identify achievable intermediate objectives (the tangible outcomes which will deliver the impact we seek) and we fail to design strategies resilient enough to produce these outcomes in the face of pressures and uncertainties of the outside world.
... a simple mental model can help managers avoid both traps:
Working through the elements of the model allows us to:
Understand the nature of the Current Situation. Is it simple? complicated? complex? chaotic? Will a SWOT analysis yield useful information?
Understand the Strategy Environment - the elements outside of our control - which influence our institution and our ability to take action now. Among these might be laws, constraints in the funding environment, market forces, demographic trends. Working through opportunities and threats in a SWOT analysis can help with this. We need to adequately understand the range of environmental uncertainty which can result in external conditions very different than those we face at present. Scenario development can help us do this.
Identify the Desired Impact we seek to have and the specific outcomes we can achieve, which will deliver the impact we seek. We need to understand the appropriate indicators of success or failure and commit to assessing our effectiveness as we proceed.
Finally, our Strategy needs to respond to all the elements of our analytical reasoning: our planned activities, our allocation of resources and personnel, our investment decisions, our internal operations and even our internal organizational structure... all need to be addressed. Well designed logical frameworks can help us, even force us, to be rigorous in matching activities to outcome to impact. Basic organizational development tools can help us look at structure, systems
Our basic mental model for setting direction derives from two sources.
We first encountered the "circle-arrow-circle" model working with Interaction Associates and its sister arm, the Interaction Institute for Social Change (and we highly recommend their training for strategists and change agents). We modified it with insights gained from working with practitioners of Royal Dutch/Shell's global scenarios methodology.