Who are we not?

For an organization, just as important as “who we are” is “who we are not.”

It is an easy trap for an organization to want to be all things to all people, though that approach often leads to doing nothing really well. A focused and well-defined strategy is not only useful to inform an organization on what it is and where it is going, but is also useful for clarifying what an organization is not. A strategy can be a good filter, such that using the discipline to check that work fits with the strategic direction – and eliminating work that does not fit – can help avoid spurious efforts that drain resources or lead to lack of clarity. Effort will be put in the places where it is needed the most and will have the most impact.

In other situations, an organization does something very well, but needs to shift course due to market changes or business lifecycle. When a strategy adds elements to an organization’s scope of work when staff are already stretched thin, I often hear the question “how will we ever find the time to do that?” At that point, the strategy is a useful test or yardstick by which to measure all of the organization’s work, and weed out the efforts that no longer fit with the strategy. This then frees up organizational bandwidth to tackle those efforts that are directly in line with the strategic direction of the organization.

Using a strategy to define what we are not – in addition to what we are – helps make an organization’s identity crystal clear and efforts coordinated for maximum impact toward a common goal.