Consulting Conversations

A Conversation with Consultant Emerson Lesher – Strategic Positioning: When is it Time for Boards to Consider this Option?

There are often times in the organizational life cycle when it is helpful or necessary to consider a new strategic position for the organization. A new strategic position may be needed when the organization is not able to keep up with regulations, has decreasing revenue streams, with the transition of a long-term CEO, even with best efforts the number of persons served is declining, or when the mission is no longer relevant or vital to the original target group served or the larger community.

Exploring a new organizational “strategic position” is different than routinely developing new multi-year “strategic plan.” Strategic position usually takes a more comprehensive approach and there is a sense that more fundamental change is needed for the organization to be effective in carrying out its mission.  Adopting a new strategic position is not just approving a continuing set of plans or goals based for the current operations, but helping to “position” the organization to serve in a way that is mission-driven, financially sustainable, and forward directed.  It is also more than “repositioning” a campus or older building.” Repositioning a campus and building may be part of a larger “strategic positioning” initiative but, goes beyond bricks and physical space.

An exploration of strategic positioning often includes these types of considerations and questions:

  1. Is our mission and vision still relevant and vital, or have we accomplished what the organization was originally formed to accomplish? How should the mission and/or vision change for the next phase of organizational life?
  2. Is the current business model sustainable for the next 5 to 10 years, or do we need to transition into a new business model?
  3. Do we have the leaders, programs, buildings, relationships and operational infrastructure to accomplish our mission and serve our target group?
  4. Does the target group we have served in the past still need or want what we provide? Do we need to change the target group or serve then in a different way?
  5. What are we willing to give up, cut out, or start anew to serve our mission and /or be more sustainable.
  6. As a faith-based organization, how is the Spirit working in new and different ways to which we might respond more effectively?

At least every five years, it is good governance for boards to take the lead in asking this question: “do we have the best strategic position possible for this organization, or is this a good time to explore whether the current position is effective for the next five to ten years?”

It takes trust, courage, and hope to look at strategic positioning, but strong boards will engage their CEO in this important effort, and the organization will be better prepared to accomplish its mission.  

Emerson Lesher, PhD
MHS Consulting Associate

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