We recently added a day-long session on Reviewing and improving your strategy to our training events programme, in response to a strong sense that there is growing need for this kind of approach, backed up by excellent feedback from our clients. Here we break into the psyche of two of our most experienced consultants in this area, Iona Joy and Abigail Rotheroe, to help you consider if this training might be right for you.
Iona: ‘When we work with charities, our approach is to help charities develop their own strategy. We don’t do it for them, but we advise on and facilitate their process. Adding strategy to our training programme felt like the natural next step—because charities may want an introduction to strategy thinking before embarking on a bigger process. Our training isn’t just about NPC dumping our knowledge on the group, but creating a chance for people to meet others in the same boat. Our approach is informal and participatory.’
What is strategy?
Abigail: ‘Strategy means different things to different organisations depending on where you are starting from. For some it’s a heart-searching discovery of core purpose. For others it’s simply planning ahead, or reviewing various options open to your organisation. For us though, it’s something very ‘live’. Charities are having to be extremely flexible and adaptable, and so you have to think of strategy not as something set in stone, but rather a framework you can use to work out how best to proceed in a rapidly changing external environment.’
Abigail: ‘There’s only so much harder a charity can work with limited resources, and so many are having to make difficult choices. Our strategy planning process works from the understanding that it has to be practical, doable and timely. We begin with stakeholder engagement and then introduce our strategy triangle, which asks you to focus on three component parts—your mission and objectives, internal resources and competencies, and the external environment—in order to assess your options.’
What key tools do you use?
Iona: ‘We use tools that are quite well known in the commercial sector, like SWOT or five forces, and those that have been specifically developed or re-tailored for the charity sector, like theory of change or NPC’s little blue book analysis. We share these with you during a mixture of sessions that also include exercises and discussion, as well as time to think about your own situation, so it’s very immediate.’
Who is the training for?
Abigail: ‘The training is really for anyone looking to influence or carry out a strategy process—those in senior management positions, as well as trustees and programme managers. We recently worked with a new CEO, for example, who had a good understanding of the organisation she was joining, but wanted a second pair of eyes so she could really take stock of its strengths and areas that need greater attention.’
What do you hope participants come away with?
Iona: ‘We don’t want to turn participants into idealogues, thinking they’ve got to follow particular procedures—but we want them to come away with useful tools that can help them with their strategy. We want them to have a reasonable idea about how to go about implementing a process that’s going to be really impactful. And we want them to have sufficient conviction that they can go back to their colleagues and make a start.’