Updated: Oct 27, 2019
Sometimes it feels like strategy is made overly-complicated by those wanting to put it on a pedestal as something only an initiated few can do. So let’s simplify strategy – democratise it if you will…
At its core strategy is finding where you should focus your efforts so you can overcome the biggest challenges holding you back from achieving your vision.
So let’s take a step-by-step look at the four building blocks of a robust strategy:
1. Identify your vision: Why does your school or organisation exist? Where do you/your team/your organisation want to be in 5 or 10 years’ time? How will people think of you? What difference will you make to the world?
2. What are the sticking points holding you back? Think about both internal and external weaknesses and threats and identify the biggest challenges you can influence. A few carefully selected analytical tools can be useful here, such as PESTLE, Strategic Group Analysis, the Cultural Web or SWOT.
3. Work out your guiding policy for overcoming these challenges: What is the general way you’re going to overcome these challenges so that you can achieve your vision? Think about how your internal strengths and external opportunities might help. And keep in mind your school or organisation's values and ethos to ensure you're embedding these in your strategy.
4. List some coherent actions you can take: Don’t try to identify 5 years’ worth, just some to get you started putting your guiding policy into action. And when you’ve completed those go back to your guiding policy and identify some more coherent actions that move you further forward in overcoming your biggest challenges.
[Experienced strategists may recognise this approach from Richard Rumelt’s book ‘Good strategy/bad strategy’ – a highly recommended read.]
OK, so I admit there’s still some complexity in here as you work on each building block. (And those of us who love strategy have come to love complexity too!) That's why it's sometimes helpful to bring someone in who can guide you through the process, facilitate your discussions and help you identify where your strategic focus should be.
So next time you're confronted with strategy jargon remember that the core of strategy is identifying where you should focus your efforts so you can overcome the biggest challenges holding you back from achieving your vision. If the jargon isn't helping your achieve this then ditch it!
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Juliet Corbett is an experienced strategy consultant working with education and not-for-profit organisations.