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What’s Strategy Got to Do with It? is a guide that forms part of the Social Good Guides, a series of essential small-business guides created for startup changemakers produced by the Social Innovators Collective. Authored by Lee-Sean Huang, founder and creative director of Foossa, this guide discusses six steps to create a sound strategy and details implementation in a social impact case study. Some of the insights offered in this guide include the importance of realistic resource appraisals, having a strategy simple enough to remember, and real-world testing and recalibration. When asked about common pitfalls in strategy, Lee-Sean answered: “People make their strategy too complicated. A good strategy is a simple strategy.”
A strategic plan gives you a guide for what to do when you are frantically trying to keep up.
Below is an excerpt from the Q + A section of the guide.
Social Good Guides (SGG): How would you define strategy?
Lee-Sean Huang (LSH): Ha ha, you really started with the big question. “Strategy” is a term that gets thrown around and abused. “Strategic” is often used as a bigger-word substitute for “smart.” A strategy is simply a plan with action steps on how you get from where you are now, to where you want to be. To use a cooking analogy, a strategy is like a recipe. Say you want to bake an apple pie, a recipe helps you know what ingredients you need, and what you need to do to make the pie. A strategy is a recipe for your success. You can always improvise to suit the circumstances. If you are out of apple pie spice, you can substitute cinnamon. That is how the real world works. Things happen and you have to adapt, but a strategy helps you get started, and gives you a guide so you don’t have to scramble and improvise for everything.
SGG: Most startup changemakers are frantically trying to do many things during their first months after their launch. How could having a strategic plan in place make that startup year easier?
LH: A strategic plan gives you a guide for what to do when you are frantically trying to keep up. You have hundreds of emails, meetings to schedule, deliverables and deadlines that are due. A good strategic plan is not just about “what to do” in a lofty abstract sense, but “what to do NEXT.” It should also tell you “what NOT to do,” so you can focus your efforts on the stuff that is really worth your while.
SGG: Most startup changemakers won’t even be familiar with how to think strategically. What questions should they ask themselves with regards to building their enterprise in a strategic way?
LH: First off, I want to say, don’t be afraid of strategy. Strategy is your friend. A true friend will challenge you and ask you tough questions. Questions like, “What do you really want?” and “What are you willing to do to get it?” Strategy starts with asking hard questions about your goals and answering in an honest way.
Reality is also your friend. Ask tough questions and set hard goals to motivate yourself, but also be honest about your assets, your capabilities, and how much you are willing to lose in money, time, opportunity, etc., to pursue your goals.
SGG: When you worked at Purpose, how did you guide your clients with whatever problems and issues were identified?
LH: That’s another big question that could take days to answer. I think if I were to answer it in one word, I would say “sequencing.” Another word is “prioritizing.” Purpose’s clients want to have big impact. They are driven and passionate, but also demanding. They also tend to be obsessive, busy people who want it all and often try to do it all. A big part of what I did was to help clients understand all the moving parts of what they were working with, and then I helped them prioritize and sequence the action steps they needed to take in order to more effectively reach their goal.
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