Peter Drucker, the godfather of strategic thinking, wrote a series of essays that have been collected in a very helpful book called Managing the Non-Profit Organization: Principles and Practices. The book is filled with provocative and suggestive chapter titles like Leadership is a Foul-Weather Job; What the Leader Owes; Converting Good Intentions into Results; Building the Donor Constituency; and What is the Bottom Line When There Is No “Bottom Line”?; The Effective Board, and so on.
Today, I was reviewing his chapter called Winning Strategies. In it, he points out that in many businesses planning is an intellectual exercise, but “until it becomes actual work, you have done nothing. Strategies, on the other hand, are action-focused.”
He then proceeds to describe the components of an effective strategy. First, he points out, you need a strategy to improve each of what he calls “the factors of production”: people working smarter and where they can “really produce,” money, and time.
To improve productivity means setting ambitious productivity goals, abandoning things that no longer work, and innovating.
Since he is writing for non-profits, he acknowledges the difficulty for managers because there is usually no product that needs to be improved or replaced and the bottom line is not money. So how do you judge the effectiveness of your strategy to make things better? First, by defining what better means. You can set qualitative goals. “You can set goals that are not measurable but can be appraised and can be judged.”
That last sentence is vital for a school, precisely because one school after another succumbed to the need to provide measurable proof of its success in doing an immeasurable work and the end result was the destruction of American education. As Drucker expressed it, “Quantity without quality is the worst thing and will result in total failure.”
Second, you can ask, “What have we contributed that mattered and what will we contribute in the future?”
With that background, he then describes the steps of building the strategy itself.
- Identify the ultimate beneficiaries of your service (in a school, that would include students, families, churches, etc. – each should be identified separately)
- Define your goal clearly
- Convert the goal into specific targets, each focused on a different group of beneficiaries
- Develop a “marketing plan” for each target group
- Allocate resources (especially people and money) to each marketing plan (tactics)
- Communicate a lot
- Train your staff (who does what, when, with what results? how will they take ownership? what tools do they need? what language do they speak?)
- Allocate resources to the specific tasks (logistics)
- Establish feedback loops (determine when you need to see results, what those results will be, how you will measure the results, what your control points will be)
Be very clear about your strategic goals and implementation and do not avoid controversy in setting your goals. And don’t try to reach different target segments with the same message.
How does your school implement the foregoing steps? Have I broken the rule in that very last sentence with my blog? Should I have one blog for leaders and another for teachers/parents? What do you think? I’m wide open to advice.