The hard questions a strategy answers

Who has time for a strategy? We are so busy working, pushing out programs, or delivering on our mission. A strategy of any kind is a luxury that we just don’t have energy for now. And what is a strategy anyway? It feels so academic at a time when we are scrambling inside a reality that is hard.

Yes. We are working very hard. Yes. A strategy can be an intellectual exercise that leads you nowhere practical. Now is not the time for those kinds of strategies. I want to focus on the kind of strategy that answers hard questions in one sitting. I want to dwell on the kind of strategy that helps you to prioritize where you and your team should put your effort. I want to elevate the kind of strategy that allows you to work less hard to get more done.

Those of us working to help people do things differently need a strategy that answers hard questions, helps us prioritize, and eases the workload. I’m thinking about consultants, association leaders, advocacy folks, and nonprofit people who support people to change their behavior, either inside or outside their organization. I’m talking about a learning strategy, though to be clear, we use “learning” as shorthand for whatever it takes to move people from where they are now to where they want or need to be. We can move people to action if we slow down in the way that Daniel Kahneman (author of Thinking, Fast and Slow) invites us to do, reflecting on our practice to change it.

A learning strategy answers three hard questions:

What are we trying to move the needle on? Particularly in a pandemic, it is easy to fall into a state of trying to help everyone everywhere. This is exhausting, especially for a team. Ultimately, we want to see big things happen. We want nonprofits to advocate, board members to make good decisions, and funders to loosen their grip on how we fund change. We want our people and partnerships to work together, not in conflict. When we focus on a goal, we can align our system behind it.

How do we work less, or at least put less effort into learning? The “fast thinking” response to someone not doing something is to give them a training. The “slow thinking” solution may remove the barriers actually holding them back. We may not need to work as hard if we expand our toolbox.

How do we make money or fund our learning program? The business side of learning often gets short shrift. We bring to market various products with various level of strategy behind the pricing or offering. Or maybe we don’t see the value that we add to a product because we are too close to it. By looking holistically at our body of work, we can build a business model that increases revenue.

A learning strategy is a bridge that reflects your best thinking about both you and the people you serve. How do you get from here to there in the most efficient and effective way?

What hard questions impact how you support people taking action? How could “slow thinking” help answer those questions for once and all so you can move faster during the course of the year?Join us on March 9, 2021 for Building A Learning Strategy to Expand Reach, Revenue and Impact

Published by Nancy

I work at the intersection of learning, nonprofits, and leadership. I am a teacher, instructional designer, and nonprofit person who has worn every hat possible. I regular write, speak, and consult on learning strategy, design, and leadership.

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