For many years I thought strategy was one thing when in reality it is two things.
I thought strategy was answering the question: (1) how will you achieve your mission?
In reality, strategy is answering two questions: (1) what will you do? and (2) how will you succeed?
I thank Patrick Lencioni for helping me achieve this clarity, as well as our current team for thoughtfully working through both of these questions when initially I had only worked through the first.
For example: a non-profit’s mission might be to increase economic opportunity for low-income families.
This non-profit might then say that their strategy is to operate charter schools, raise money for post-secondary scholarships, and partner with local employers for job placements.
In this answer, the organization is answering the question: what will we do?
Alternatively, the non-profit might not mention the above and instead say that their strategy is to form incredibly deep partnerships with their families, develop the best teacher coaching program in the country, and use data analysis to find great college and career matches for their students.
In this answer, the organization is answering the question: how will we succeed?
Because “strategy” has evolved in to too broad of a concept, either answer might be deemed acceptable.
But it’s vial that an organization answers both questions.
As a leader, you need to be very clear about what is that your organization will do to achieve your mission.
As a leader, you also need to be very clear about how your organization will out-perform other organizations that are doing the exact same thing.
Most often, I see leaders in the non-profit sector make the same mistake I made: they have only thought hard about what they will do.
Too often, leaders don’t spend enough time answering the question: how will we outperform everyone is who doing the exact same thing?