Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Strategy is mighty!

Following the openSUSE strategy discussion I read some reasonable questions and comments like:  Why do we invest time into that useless strategy discussion? What is the benefit of a strategy? Strategy is only for companies!
This is a follow up to my friend Jos' post about strategy.

I love strategy! (Strategy was one of my major subjects at university and a research focus of the chair I worked and taught over four years.) So I might be biased. Nevertheless I want to convince you share some of my thoughts.  

Why do we invest time into that valuable strategy discussion?

There are several studies about the success of organizations. The strategy is in most cases playing an important part. I explain why:

What is the benefit of a strategy?

A good strategy should
1. show your major future challenges and provide an answer to those challenges,
2. point into a direction where the team wants to move and
3. unite the team.

"Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future. " (Niels Bohr) But you have to try to anticipate the challenges. Otherwise you have no chance to act. You could only re-act and that is not an advantage. It is always easier to change things when you are in the driving seat. These challenges include the development of customer needs as well as of the competitors. Business tools (like them or not) can help to see some things clearer.

A good strategy gives a direction where the herd is aiming at. In an environment with no strong top down control (like in communities), having the same targets and values are essential. This direction - called the vision or mission -  summarizes the common goals in one sentence. This goal is far enough away that you have to move yourself and close enough that it is possible to reach.

A strategy can help a community to glue together, to find the things they have in common and to define (together) the way they want to go (together). In business many strategies are defined by the top management and fail because they are not wholeheartedly supported by the employees. The best strategy is worth nothing if it is not filled with life. Therefore, the perhaps most important part of a good strategy is the process how this strategy was created. Who was involved? How were the opinions collected and summarized? Is the process open enough? Is the communication and the flow of information transparent? How many people outside of the organization were involved? Etc. [This would fill a whole blogpost of it's own.]

Strategy is for communities!

Most strategy projects at university I did with NPO (non profit organization). We worked with kindergartens, with schools, with the youth welfare office etc. I can assure you: those projects were a blast. I am convinced that it works for communities as well!

Strategy is mighty!

A brilliant strategy, developed in an open environment by the community and external persons can take your open source project to the next level of success. Focus on the processes not (only) the content. Don't write down a strategy just to have one. Make it move your world!

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