In the VUCA-filled world most entrepreneurs live in every day, being agile trumps sticking to a plan. Every time. But sticking to a plan, or even having one, is not the same as having a strategy, and having a clear strategy can keep you alive and moving forward vs. drowning and moving in circles.
If your social enterprise has deep pockets and you don’t need to demonstrate impact for years to come, stop reading. For everyone else, feeling under pressure to be agile and disruptive, and needing to reinvent yourself every month to stay relevant, I have 8 words for you:
Don’t have a plan, do have a strategy.
Don’t have a plan, do have a strategy. Tweet This Quote
Of course, planning is important, mostly because the process of laying out the sequence of activities your team needs to execute is likely to surface critical resource gaps and force you to make important choices. But, if you have the right resources in place and are able to make consistent choices, you’ll be able to effectively respond to a changing operating environment and the plan itself will not matter as much. A strategy on the other hand will always matter, a lot. And strategy boils down to one word:
A clear strategy helps you make consistent and deliberate choices, which will keep you moving forward instead of in circles even as your plans change. Making deliberate choices, ones where you’re explicitly deciding to do A and not B, is doubly tough as a social entrepreneur. The possibility of having a greater impact by pursuing a broader path can be tempting, but all good intentions aside, your impact will only be diluted by avoiding making clear (seemingly tough) choices.
So, put your strategy down on paper, ideally in a single not-too-lengthy sentence, and use it to guide your answers to the following two questions:
- Who is my target customer (defined more narrowly than a whole industry of companies or demographic grouping of families)? Who will I ignore (within that industry or demographic grouping)? Would One-Laptop-Per-Child have had more impact in those early years if they had chosen not to try to reach the very poorest kids, kids who were barely at the pencil divide and facing more pressing issues like severe malnutrition?
- What need or pain point will I solve for my target customer (better than anyone else can)? What needs will I ignore (at least for now)? Might Playpumps have been able to scale their impact if they weren’t attempting to help poor schoolchildren by not only providing clean water but also encouraging play, and ending up not impacting either goal in a measurable way?