Where do you start when you’re crafting a strategy for a new hub or department for collective action? We don’t think there’s one fixed approach to strategy, but we’ll share the steps we took to craft the strategy for our multi-stakeholder partnering hub, and how you can develop your strategy.
- Strategy is about making choices..
- The strategy statement is about articulating those choices..
- And strategy is adaptable.
Start With Why
The first thing we asked ourselves when we were getting started with our strategy is “why?” The ‘why’ is your reason for existence.
In Simon Sinek’s video and book ‘Start With Why’, he shares why most organisations have gotten things wrong when trying to understand themselves and define a way forward, and why you should start with ‘why’.
The ‘why’ – the purpose for existence for the organization – should be the thing that guides all major decision making. Unfortunately, it is often poorly understood or articulated, and few organisations know why they do what they do.
The ‘how’ helps to make the ‘why’ happen, and some organisations know how to do it.
The ‘what’ is probably the one that almost every organisation understands about themselves – what they do.
This is a great framework to start with, but we’ve found that for start-up teams, or new alliances and networks, after we have defined the why, the more intuitive thing to do is to figure out the what, before we get into the how. It’s just a matter of definitions. Essentially the order of what we are doing is still the same, bu how we define ‘how’ and ‘what’ is a little different from Simon Sinek.
In our adapted version, the ‘why’ is still the most important. We take our time to experiment and find out what are some of the things we can do to fulfill our ‘why’, and that is an iterative process. Finally, once we have a plan, we will figure out how to execute the plan to make the ‘what’ happen.
Here’s our Why: We exist to tackle effects of poverty by enabling multi-sector partnerships to create solutions which multiply resources, break poverty cycles and benefit families, communities and societies.
Once we’ve defined our purpose for existence, we need to define who we’re serving. So how do you define your key stakeholders and their roles? Of your key stakeholders, who is your ‘target client’ or ‘customer’? What do you want and need from each stakeholder group, and what do they want from you?
There are many tools available to identify and analyse stakeholders - this simple diagram provides a glimpse into stakeholder analysis.
Your stakeholders might include the following:
External Stakeholders (outside of organisation)
- Government and Government-related Bodies: Depending on the foresight of the local government, some may be active supporters of multi-sector partnerships (and willing to fund initiatives), provided that either the local government or local businesses benefit from the partnerships. Support (hopefully including financial) may come from ministries, statutory boards or government-linked corporations.
- Associations and Foundations: Certain trade associations (e.g. chambers of commerce) may be champions as they foster collaboration as a whole. Foundations may also be good candidates as they generally exist to champion a cause.
- Academic and Research Institutions: Some academic and/or research institutions may have centres or departments dedicated to sustainability, partnerships and/or multi-sector collaborations.
- Customers/ Beneficiaries/ Community: if you are implementing at the community level, your stakeholders will likely extend to community members and leaders, local businesses, local government authorities.
Internal Stakeholders (within organisation)
Internal stakeholders will vary largely based on the size, sector, industry and structure of your organisation. Generally, it is necessary to get buy-in from:
- senior management
- board of directors
- support and business units
- locales where projects are executed
- global HQ / regional office
It helps to be as detailed as possible when mapping your stakeholders. Let’s use Asia P3 Hub as an example.
We started with our funders – World Vision and a government donor. Within World Vision itself, we have other sub-stakeholders:
- the global centre, where global functions are housed
- the support offices, or our fund-raising offices
- the regional offices
- the programme implementation offices
Even within the programme implementation offices, we identified more specific stakeholders.
Next, we have our multi-sector partners from the 3 sectors – private, public and people. In the private sector, these are mostly corporates, although we work with start-ups and SMEs too.
In the public sector, we work with government agencies or government-linked entities.
In the people sector, we have a broader mix, ranging from other NGOs, foundations to academic institutions.
Once you’ve identified who your stakeholders are, you can move into understanding how you can be of value to them. The approach that we’ve found the most straightforward to develop a value proposition for stakeholders, is to start with their pain points. What keeps them awake at night? What are some of their biggest frustrations? What are the things they need solved?
Be a Painkiller, not a Vitamin
Once you’ve found a real pain point, you want to see how you can be the painkiller.
There is a stark difference between a painkiller and a vitamin.
If today you have a huge pain:
- A painkiller is a must have.
- It’s something you can’t live without,
- You would be willing to pay whatever the price to make the pain go away.
On the other hand, a vitamin is just a supplement. It’s a nice-to-have, on some days you may forget about it, and you will probably only consider this if your budget allows. You want to be a painkiller, not a vitamin.
Problem/ Pain Mapping
When you are mapping the pain or the problem, it’s important to:
Make sure it is an admitted pain by your stakeholder.
You want your stakeholder to articulate the pain themselves. Here’s a simple example: I am balding or losing hair and you have a miracle hair-loss shampoo. If you see my balding scalp and assume that it’s my pain point and try to convince me that I need your hair loss shampoo, I might be offended because I don’t think my hair-loss is a problem. Maybe I like being bald. Sometimes, your stakeholder may have latent pain. They kind of know it’s a problem, but they live with it because they have bigger problems to worry about. Maybe I’ve been keeping my hair short, just to make my baldness a little less obvious. The best situation is when your stakeholders have an admitted pain. I admit that my hair-loss is a problem and I want to find a solution to fix it. Then your shampoo is my painkiller.
Be as specific about the pain point as possible.
“NGOs need new ways of working to generate resources,” is pretty vague. However: “in certain countries, NGOs are increasingly being mandated to reduce their overhead headcounts to less than 20%, and that includes your marketing, sales and resource development headcounts,” is a clearer problem statement. A clear problem statement helps you define where you can provide the most value.
Based on a well defined problem statement, you can develop your value proposition. In the Getting Started module, we covered the importance of defining your Unique Selling Point (USP) when establishing your hub.
While your USP describes how your hub or organisation is unique, your value proposition defines the value you provide to your stakeholders. A value proposition offers your stakeholders a clear picture of what your brand stands for and has to offer.
Developing your Strategy
What is Strategy?
Before we begin, let’s define what we mean by ‘strategy’. We define strategy as: a game plan to achieve our goals.
In a game of chess, the goal is to win. ‘To win’, however is not a strategy. If you say: “My strategy is to crowd the middle of the chessboard early, but protect as many as my pawns even at the price of sacrificing my rooks, knights and bishops in order to have at least 1 or 2 promotions,” that’s more like a proper strategy.
In terms of organisational statements – strategy sits in the ‘What’ section.
Strategy is about choices. More importantly, it’s about choices that work for your context.
Your Strategy Needs a Strategy
When we talk about strategy, some familiar frameworks come to mind such as SWOT analysis, Porter’s 5 Forces, Blue Ocean Strategy, etc. There are loads of books that talk about every one of them, and we are definitely not covering all of that.
The Boston Consulting Group has mapped out all the different strategy frameworks created over 6 decades and concluded that you have to pick the right strategy depending on the environment the organisation is in. They came up with a book called: ‘Your strategy needs a strategy’ to help you choose and execute the right strategy based on your organisation’s environment. It provides a framework to cut through the strategy hype and their website has useful tools as well.
The next thing you need to define is a strategy statement: the strategy statement is about articulating your choices. The challenge here is to make it succinct and precise, so everyone in the organisation can articulate it.
A good strategy statement should have 3 components: objective, scope and advantage.
- The Objective should be limited to one single metric that you can measure within a time frame, so you can clearly say whether you have achieved or not.
- The Scope defines the boundaries of your offering. It not only defines what you do, it also defines what you don’t do. It can be anything from customer segments to geographical areas of operations to range of products and services.
- The Advantage talks about what makes you unique from your competitors in the market. Are you doing something that no one else is doing, or are you able to provide something that no one else can provide?
The real challenge is squeezing all of this into 35 words or less. But it’s important to be succinct so that everyone in the organisation can articulate the strategy and align their choices to the strategy.
Harvard Business Review has a paper on this, 'Can You Say What Your Strategy Is?', which is a paid resource (available for less than the price of a book) that has some great pointers.
Strategy is Adaptable
Strategy is about making choices and the strategy statement is about articulating those choices. The last point we want to make on strategy is that it is adaptable.
About six months after Asia P3 Hub crafted its strategy, World Vision came up with a global strategy. So what did we do? We adapted and integrated our strategy into the strategy of World Vision. We wanted to make sure we were aligned with what our parent organisation was doing. Fortunately, there weren’t too many changes we needed to make in order to be aligned with the global strategy.
Populate your Golden Circle.
- Sketch your stakeholder map
- List your major stakeholders and their potential pain points
Craft Your Strategy Statement
Here are some key resources for developing your Strategy. Our downloadable Hub-in-a-Box guide also includes useful and relevant tools. And we’ve compiled additional tools and resources, that Asia P3 Hub has found the most useful in its journey so far on the resources section of the Asia P3 Hub website.