One of the key takeaways I have through this week’s reading is the need to be flexible with one’s strategic approach, especially in relation to different business units with different goals/needs. In “Your Strategy Needs a Strategy,” Martin Reeves discusses four different approaches to strategy development and the different ways they can be appropriately applied to an organization’s strategy: classical, visionary, adaptive, and shaping. We can see these different strategic approaches in action in the “KaBOOM!” case study. In the organization’s founding years, it deployed a shaping strategy, in building its network for partners, funding mechanisms, and community-based organizing and playground-building. The cycle of fundraising for and then executing each of the individual project builds were the experiments for executing the strategy. By having an approach that focused on collaboration and partnership development, KaBOOM further demonstrated the use of a shaping strategy, which resulted in a robust partner list.
However, in the early 2000s, when faced with competitors entering the market, KaBOOM was forced to examine a different strategic thrust with the growth of new lines of business, while maintaining its community-based playground builds. At this point, the KaBOOM Dream Builders were engaging in classic strategy development for their work—they knew their market and their competitors. But the new training and advocacy lines of business were being forced to respond to a changing market, demonstrating a more visionary strategy in action. In making a conscientious decision to expand its training program and focus on advocacy, KaBOOM was responding to the market, and the entry of new competitors into it, to differentiate KaBOOM as the leader around creating accessible play for children in low income communities.
Whether this was intentional, KaBOOM demonstrates how organizations can employ different strategic approaches simultaneously. I think of application at my own organization. We deliver multiple services with a varying number of competitors, and the needs of those services are determined by the local economic factors. When we develop our strategy to deliver these services, we go with a classic approach, which makes sense for some of our services, but not all of them. For example, it would make sense for our financial empowerment program to be more adaptive, so that we can meet the growing need to address the growing student loan crisis. We need to be nimble and respond to market forces, but I think we often get hung up on specific services we offer rather than the core values and purpose of the organization. We forget that there are different ways and opportunities to achieve that purpose. I am in a position where I can help guide strategy, but I’m not the final decision-maker. And without buy-in and support from all organizational decision-makers, we will not be able to achieve successful execution of different strategic approaches.