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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, July 15, 2018 1:00 am

Strategy drives ideas, makes visions reality

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

Perfect idea. Now how do we get it done?

Maybe it's plural: You and your team have lots of great ideas, but the same question lingers – how to accomplish them.

“Strategy” is a good word.

“It's like the fire that leads to everything that we're doing in the world,” Nicole Farkouh, a founder of CultureWork, said during a free webinar/conference call she hosted July 3 on Strategy Formation.

Strategy requires taking “the fire” to make some change or difference – tangible actions to create something tangible, said Farkouh, who is based in the San Jose, California, area.

CultureWonk focuses on nonprofit organizational management. Farkouh invited those who registered for Strategy Formation to set the agenda for discussion with their questions.

Having done leadership in both profit and nonprofit areas, I think it's clear that many approaches can be applied in either area, just as some of the challenges with resources and financial revenue can be concerns in both. 

Strategy is a necessary partner to vision. If you don't have a plan to implement your vision, as other leaders have said, then you really just have a dream.

During Farkouh's session, one leader's question centered on knowing the right time to implement change, especially when the regular responsibilities make it seem like there's never a good time to invest time in the process.

Having “clear, strong alignment” with a team or organization is important, Farkouh said. Alignment is knowing who you are, what you're about, and what change you're trying to create. If that's clear, then you can talk about “is this way better than that.”

She cautioned against taking on too much.

When everything feels important, it's easy to expend a little energy here, a little energy there ... and there ... and there. But at some point, Farkouh said, everyone tends to feel exhausted. 

Given the resources of human energy and passion, time, resources and money, organizations have to decide where they think they can push the needle and make some changes.

Priority setting is crucial. You have to decide to focus on certain initiatives “even though all these other things are really important,” Farkouh said.

That may require negotiations.

“If you are all able to anchor yourselves in the vision you're trying to create, combined with people's skills and strengths, it makes it easier for people to let go of things they're grasping to hold onto,” Farkouh said. “It makes it easier to let go of 'C' because everybody else wants to try 'A,' but recognizes that 'C' is important and something they want to come back to.”

Don't expect the negotiations to go smoothly, either.

“They're not easy conversations,” Farkouh said. “They're hard, like really intense.”

Another question centered on purpose and mission.

Farkouh said organizations can sometimes have programs and initiatives that have great impact but don't generate a lot of revenue. Impact could be based on how much value those on the receiving end place on what's being done or offered.

You can be mission-focused and engage in programs that aren't high revenue generators but may help with the organization's sustainability.

It's important to explore possibilities that contribute to impact, but keep the mission central, Farkouh said.

Sometimes focusing on new initiatives may make you feel like you're “not doing the thing that's important.”

But mission statements tend to focus on the actions people are doing, not the changes people are trying to make.

In the end, Farkouh said, “The heart is the fuel that keeps us going.” 

To share a thought, a favorite quote or other wisdom about leadership, email Lisa Green at Lead On also appears online as a blog at