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Daily Nuggets: A For Impact Blog

Strategic Plan vs. Strategic Clarity


Note: I first posted this in 2011. I’m posting again because I’m still tired of reading lengthy strategic plans that don’t derive from, or result in, real strategic clarity.

  • In the past year, I have been with several foundations that have asked orgs for ‘strategic plans.’ Speaking to the foundations directly, I can say that what they’re really asking for is STRATEGIC CLARITY — not 40 pages of ‘stuff.’ It’s a vocab issue.
  • IMPACT drives INCOME. In order to get funding results we [The Suddes Group] always have to back our way into helping an organization get REAL strategic clarity, so that we have a clean strategy, message, and case for support for funders. Funding, at this point, then simply becomes about execution. We can coach and train people to execute.

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Strategic Plan v. Strategic Clarity

Think about the difference in these two terms.

Every organization needs strategic clarity and a 1000-day action plan. They need to have everyone on the same page about:

  • The purpose (the WHY) and the vision (the ultimate goal) (at 30,000’).

    This should fit on a napkin.

  • No more than THREE* simple strategic priorities (at 14,000’) that advance the organization toward the goal, aligning with purpose.

    These should fit on the back of that napkin.

    *Drucker was even simpler. He said every organization should have at most TWO priorities… WOW!

  • A 100-day (near-term) plan of action tied to each priority and a 1000-day plan of action with benchmarks that run more fluid for quarterly review.

    This should fit on one sheet of paper (maybe two), if you stay at the strategic level.

Every day we speak with someone who needs or wants a ‘strategic plan.’ I can’t identify with that term anymore because it means so many different things. In each case though, they need clarity and simplicity. Only about half the time do they need to do a lot of consensus-building (think: visits, dialogue, and time) to bring everyone on the same page.

Over simplified? No.

Easy? No.

You haven’t taught it until they’ve learned it


“You haven’t taught it until they’ve learned it.” – John Wooden

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Tied to this simple nugget, Bill Parcells (in his biography) describes a lesson from his early days of coaching. Parcells was an assistant coach under Dean Pryor. A player messed up in practice and Parcells recalls ‘unloading on the guy.’

Pryor, voice raised, cut Parcells off. “Well, you obviously didn’t go over it enough, because he didn’t get it.” The teachable moment was the first time that Pryor had ever scolded his assistant, and it happened in front of a bench full of players.

“That cut like a knife to the heart,” Parcells remembers. “But it was one of the best lessons I ever learned.” Regardless of the mistake made by a player, his coach shared responsibility for any lack of execution. The onus falls on the coach to foster an environment conducive to learning—and retaining—instruction. Over the decades, Parcells would convey this same lesson countless times to his coaches when they blamed a player for not following instructions.

Artifacts of Your Funding Conversation


The definition of an artifact is any object made – or altered! – by human beings, where the alteration gives it new meaning or purpose.

Followers of this blog and our publishing will be familiar with the concept of an engagement tool. We advocate for having a simple message and simple tool (1-2 pages, ideally).

More than that, it should feature a lot of white space so you can WRITE and DRAW on the tool with a prospect!

Think about the last time you were in a meeting and someone started drawing as a means of communication. One of you probably tried to keep the indecipherable scrawls (because they captured the experience of the idea sharing).

When you are finished, the marked-up engagement tool becomes an ARTIFACT of the conversation. Your drawing… your scribbling… gives the tool new meaning.

(It’s a hallmark of a good visit when a prospect asks, “Can I keep this?”)
Image of Marked-up Engagement Tool / Artifact
(see this example video @ 7:00 mins for an illustration)

Identifying How Decisions Are Made


Every organization is perfectly designed to get the results they are getting.

This is one of our refrains. Whereas many consulting companies do feasibility studies or manage capital campaigns, at The Suddes Group our aim is to help an organization *design* for the right results — and then help implement to get those results.

As is the case with design work and culture change, this is often messy, iterative, and complex. It requires that we identify leadership and the process by which to make necessary decisions (that will move the enterprise forward).

Drawing on several frameworks, here are the decision-making modes that we seek to identify, name, and direct.

1. Autocratic
2. Input
3. Democratic
4. Consensus
5. Unanimous

Autocratic: While this can have a negative application, there are times when a decision just needs to be made, in order to move forward quickly. Leaders of social impact organizations tend to default to building consensus, but during an organization’s infancy, or when there is no ‘right’ decision, it might require that someone ‘just make a decision.’

Input still has one (clearly defined) decision-maker, but that person gathers input from others first; this style places an emphasis on participation, listening, and openness.

Democratic and Consensus: These are similar in some ways — they both favor a majority (or highest vote tally). Stylistically, a democratic decision-making process can sometimes be polarizing (think: Congress). In contrast, consensus is about finding an option that tries to build the most bridges, and the most understanding of different points of view. Note: Practically speaking, you can see the difference in this way — a consensus-building process requires many more rounds of back-and-forth, revisions, etc.

Unanimous: This is the hardest and most time-consuming option, to get everyone involved to agree on the decision. It requires a deep commitment from the team to listen, to let go, and to move forward as one.

The power of these styles comes from being deliberate about DECLARING them and then COMMUNICATING them within a process or plan.

Do One Thing at a Time


When asked for a productivity tip, Warren Buffet once said something along the lines of, “It’s simple. I do one thing at a time and I don’t start something else until I’m finished with that one thing.”

In The Effective Executive, Peter Drucker writes about this notion:

If there is any one “secret” of effectiveness, it is concentration. Effective executives do first things first and they do one thing at a time….

Concentration is dictated… by the fact that most of us find it hard enough to do well even one thing at a time, let alone two. Mankind is indeed capable of doing an amazingly wide diversity of things; humanity is a “multipurpose tool.” But the way to apply productively mankind’s great range is to bring to bear a large number of individual capabilities on one task…

This is the “secret” of those people who “do so many things” and apparently so many difficult things. They do only one at a time. As a result, they need much less time in the end than the rest of us…

The people who get nothing done often work a great deal harder… the typical executive tries to do several things at once.

Common Case-for-Support Challenges


We can almost always diagnose a problem with a case for support (or funding story) by using the Altitude Framework. And, what’s interesting is that organizations tend to need help at a single level of messaging versus all or multiple levels.

We can organize messaging challenges into these three levels of clarity:

  • At 30,000′ – Toward what end? (This is a WHY question)
  • At 14,000′ – Where is the money going?
  • At 3′ – What’s the math?

Note: There are some supplemental questions based on circumstance and sector. For example, a social enterprise needs to be able to talk clearly about the business model (explicitly) but, I would argue that topic is covered (conceptually) under ‘knowing the math.’

Here is how we often see the lack of message clarity playing out:

At 30,000′ – Toward what end?

Organizations that struggle at 30,000’ tend to be doing sector-changing work (and often in a crowded space). They focus too much on how they’re different, or the nuances of their model, instead of being really clear about the simple, visceral reasons WHY someone should care: “This is the problem we’re solving!” Or, “This is how we want to change the world!”

Tell-tale sign: They often lead their narrative with a theory of change.

Examples:

  • Health (care) Transformation.
  • Education (Transformation).
  • Community Development.

At 14,000′ – Where is the money going? (Or, what are the funding priorities?)

Organizations that struggle at the 14,000’ level tend to operate on an (established) funding model other than philanthropy. They’re not good at talking about how they’ll use funds to do X, Y, or Z. Culturally, they might start a fundraising campaign simply to augment a different business model.

Tell-tale sign: An organization with a multi-million-dollar operating budget wants to start a campaign for unrestricted funds.

Examples:

  • Hospitals.
  • Research Institutions.
  • Global RFP-Grant-Based NGOs.
  • Large earned-income organizations.

At 3′ – What’s the (Case for Support) Math?

Organizations that struggle with the math tend to be those with built-in funding prospects. A great example here is a school. Alumni and parents will no doubt support the school, but the the questions then become about how all the math works out. Will it increase tuition? Will it be sustainable? What is the cost? How will this funding project impact the future business model (tuition/admission)?

Tell-tale sign: A mentality of “If we build it, they will fund.”

Examples:

  • Schools
  • Museums

To be clear: every organization needs to address these three case questions. I am just outlining some general trends and questions that might be helpful in uncovering your challenge.

The Most Important Story is the Story You Tell Yourself


The most important story in the world is the story you tell yourself!

Before a visit or an ask, take time to shape that story!

  • My story is: They are not really being ‘asked’ by everyone in town; they’re being invited to every gala in town.
  • My story is: The reason they haven’t given $1M is that no one’s ever ASKED.
  • My story is: They’re NOT tired of giving money. They’re FRUSTRATED at not having a big enough impact.
  • My story is: They’re LOOKING for meaning, purpose, and a way to have a bigger IMPACT.
  • My story is: They’re WAITING for us to ASK!

Jim Rohn on Leadership (and Parenting)


I’ve been taking some time off from writing/posting these past two weeks. The Fellers family welcomed our fourth(!) child, baby Kathryn (“Kit”) last week.

I’ll be working my way back into posting Daily Nuggets, but I wanted to share this nugget from Jim Rohn. Rohn is one of the ‘success author’ pioneers. He’s credited with inspiring Brian Tracy, Tony Robbins, Jack Canfield, and many others.

Somehow, it became a ritual for me to rock new babies and reread all of Jim Rohn’s stuff. I find it inspirational, directional and centering. Rohn’s concept of ‘success’ is not limited to financial, or corporate. He focuses on success in terms of fulfillment and family. For this fourth-time new dad, I always connect with Rohn’s passages on parenting, in particular.

Here are two nuggets on Leadership – and Parenting:

Leadership is the great challenge of today [Jim Rohn writes… in the 1970’s], in all fields: science, politics, industry, education, sales. And leadership will continue to be among our greatest challenges in the future.

But I want to begin by recognizing one of the most challenging roles in leadership—parenting. Yes, one of the greatest challenges of leadership is parenting. Unless we take our children by the hand and strengthen the family foundation, the nation is shaky. Parenting is where it all begins.

My father had a simple little rule. He said, “Son, if you get in trouble in school, when you get home, it’s double trouble.” Does that method sound familiar? Double trouble at home if you get in trouble at school. A lot of parents are hoping someone else will exercise the leadership role—teachers or the church or the school or the community—somebody will take up the task of being the example of leadership. But this is a challenge for parents to take up themselves, to become leaders.


The Challenge of Leadership

So now, here’s what leadership is: The challenge to be something more than mediocre. It was said of Abraham Lincoln that when his mother died he was at her bedside, and her last words to him were: “Be somebody, Abe.” And if that story’s true, he must have taken it to heart. Be somebody. That’s a good challenge. Be somebody. Be somebody wise. Be somebody strong. Strength is attractive. Be somebody kind. All of the attributes of leadership are a unique challenge.

Leadership is the challenge to step up to a new level, a new dimension. Here’s what this new dimension has: opportunity and responsibility. But who wouldn’t want the responsibility along with the opportunity if it builds an extraordinary life? You wouldn’t want it any other way.

There’s a whole new level of leadership, a new method. Here’s what it is called: Leadership by invitation. Not leadership by threat. Not leadership by aggravation. Not leadership by intimidation—that shows the weakness of the leader or shows ego at work instead of skills. Leadership by invitation. Invite somebody to a better way of doing things.

Here’s what else it’s called: Leadership by inspiration. Inspire somebody to make the necessary changes to move up or to get the job done. As leaders, we inspire. As leaders, we entice. As leaders, we invite. Invite, entice, inspire, but not threaten.

Rohn, Jim. The Jim Rohn Guides Complete Set (Kindle Locations 538-558). SUCCESS Partners. Kindle Edition.

Integration before Growth


Ichak Adizes created the working theory and framework for organizational lifecycles. Many ‘gurus’ have duplicated, or built upon, his lifecycle framework.

Here is a nugget nestled in the introduction of the latest edition of his work. It’s a specific insight about the importance of INTEGRATION as a key factor in predicting organizational growth. Most leaders might grow organizations a few times in their careers. We’ve worked to transform hundreds of organizations… and scaled just as many ‘funding efforts’… built and developed teams… to help raise over $2Billion. To us, this little nugget is HUGE and not to be missed!!!!

“I have learned that although it remains true that entrepreneurship causes growth and a lack of entrepreneurship causes aging, Integration is the factor that precedes entrepreneurship in predicting organizational growth and aging. This factor enables the creation of the nurturing environment essential for entrepreneurship and, thus, for organizational growth. Integration also allows organizations to treat aging problems more proactively—that is, earlier. Because this factor is subtle, it is commonly ignored and neglected in the pursuit of growth. That neglect is what causes organizations to take the typical path—with all its pains—on the organizational lifecycle.”

Adizes observes that large organizations are often working on ‘integration’ of teams, functions, systems. But his wording is insightful: integration is the ‘factor that precedes… in predicting’ where organizations are going.

We use this insight in our coaching.

Let’s suppose we’re helping you START an effort to build more individual giving. The trick is to balance ‘entrepreneurship’ (i.e., moving fast / doing things) and integration. In practice, this might mean that we prototype an effort inside of a large enterprise. Then, after there is some funding success, we’ll focus FIRST on how to integrate that function with other elements of the enterprise. That integration (buy-in, alignment, role clarity… the ‘culture stuff’) is predictive of the organization’s ability to successfully scale the funding model in an enterprise.

To increase sales, spend more time selling.


The title of this post is supposed to be reductively simple: To increase sales, spend more time selling.

This morning I’m reading through old HBR articles on ‘selling.’ We do this to find the research, studies, and science, and then use that information to back our approach and/or innovate. Here’s a little ‘finding’ from a 2006 article: The New Science of Sales Force Productivity.

Another question that leading sales organizations ask themselves is, Are the field reps spending as much time as possible selling? When we measure salespeople’s “non-customer-facing time,” we find that it often amounts to more than half of their total hours. If sales executives uncover that kind of problem, they have a variety of tools at their disposal. They may be able to channel some of the reps’ administrative functions to support staff… They also may simplify the systems that the reps are expected to deal with. Several years ago, sales executives at Cisco set a goal of reducing reps’ nonselling time by a few hours a week and charged the IT department with making it happen. The improvement led to several hundred million dollars in additional revenue.

I’m sharing this because it looks so simple. And it IS that simple. The problem is that most social impact organizations hold – as a cultural point of pride – the ability for each person to wear many hats. I was on the phone last week with a director of development who said, “Our president expects EVERYONE in the organization to be on the front lines providing service at least three mornings per week.”

That’s a decision.

In addition, we often see front-line salespeople being tasked with other functions – like running events. Or, in health care, the ‘fundraising executives’ are often asked to be at every health care system executive meeting (often this takes the BEST sales person offline for 40% of the month!).

These organizations are all trying to find ‘new ways to raise money.’

Our advice is not ‘innovative.’ It’s simple: Free up more time for your SALES PEOPLE to FOCUS on SELLING.