Agile Strategy: Planning Your Work When You Don’t Know What’s Coming

Leading a venture has never been easy, and it’s only getting more challenging as the business community faces up to complex social and environmental challenges. Traditional approaches to strategy no longer work, and plans aren’t effective if they end up as artifacts on dusty hard drives! Today, they must be living documents, grounded in values, that empower leaders and support the ongoing growth and development of the organization.

So how do you build an effective strategy? And how do you translate ideas into impact? I hope the workshop at SVI Virtual gave you a sense of our Agile approach—and the essentials to a good strategy, and a viable strategic plan.

The Agile Strategy workshop aimed to dispel four myths of strategic planning…

Thanks to all of you who attended the workshop, and for the fabulous dialogue. I look forward to staying in conversation, and to supporting your important work!

Myth #1: Strategy is for ‘The Big Guys’ If you have a plan… if you’re purposeful about your work… if you make decisions based on a set of values… you have a strategy! The real difference between social ventures and big corporations is in the scope of the planning work you can afford the time or the money to do.

Myth #2: Strategy is Analytical The ‘Godfather of Management,’ Prof. Peter Drucker said it best: “culture eats strategy for breakfast!” If you develop a strategy that doesn’t take culture and values into account, you’re taking a mighty risk. A successful strategy is about what you’ll do and how you’ll do it.

Myth #3: Strategy Precedes Branding In fact, they’re two sides of the same proverbial coin. Brand is the public face of strategy. Without a sound strategy, branding is just storytelling; fun, but too easily disconnected from organizational value. Without a strong brand, strategy is too easily an academic exercise; interesting, but not engaging to stakeholders.

Myth #4: Strategy Precedes Implementation To resolve complex problems, we must learn on the fly. Building an early stage or growth venture is itself a complex problem. So are many of the great challenges that social impact organizations aim to meet. So first inquire, then sense the nature of the challenge at hand, then prioritize activities, and then respond—and then start over. This approach won’t fit neatly into convenient annual planning cycles. Strategy and implementation are one and the same, simultaneous and mutually reinforcing.

Books & Other References

I promised to share a couple of references and tools….

First, here’s the link to today’s slides. (PDF 4MB)


Tools & References

Case Studies

I mentioned a few of our clients during the workshop, and thought you might be interested to read a few relevant case studies….

Thanks again for joining me at the workshop! I hope we were able to shift your thinking about what you and your organization can achieve! Please don’t hesitate to be in touch if you’d like to chat more about any of the ideas or tools. You can reach me directly via [email protected].