Hey everybody! I don’t mean to toot my own horn or anything, but you are looking at the newest board member for the Affordable Housing Authority in my county. And yes I’m aware that you’re not actually looking at me right now, and yes it’s true that didn’t exactly have to beat out 55 other applicants for the position (or 54, or even 1 other person). But I’m happy to be a part of it nevertheless. I live in a part of the world where the need for affordable housing greatly exceeds the supply of it, and I’m happy that I’ll be able to work toward finding a solution for people who have literally nowhere else to go.
I’ve actually been on the board for about four months, and it’s taken me that long to understand the landscape that I’ve entered into. I won’t bore you with the details, but here’s a snapshot – finances are in good shape, the housing that we currently manage is in good repair, and we have done a very good job of maintaining the status quo for the last several years. However, the challenge is that there’s an increasing need for affordable housing at the same time that it’s becoming more and more difficult to secure any state or federal funds to help us create that housing.
We could continue doing what we’ve been doing for the last decade and stay in ‘maintenance mode.’ We’re good at it, and nobody would fault us for continuing to provide affordable housing to the population we currently serve. But given how many more people need our services, I’ve argued that we should at least discuss what a ‘growth mode’ might look like for us. And that’s what we’re going to do. Soon we’ll have a strategy session to see how we might change the way we’re currently doing things.
I recognize that I’m talking about a non-profit right now, but the process we’ll go through to come up with a new strategy is the same one a business would do. So in case you’d like to do things a little differently in your business but aren’t sure how to begin, here’s what we’re going to do:
Solicit Everyone’s Input
You can’t change your strategy if you don’t have any ideas about how to do it, and you can’t know which ideas are best unless you have some options to choose from. So get everyone to think about what they’d like to see as you move forward. Not only will it get everyone thinking in the right direction, but it will also begin the process of getting your team to buy in to the idea that things are about to change.
See Which Ideas Overlap
Odds are you’ll have several different people come up with very similar ideas, and that might help you set your direction right from the beginning.
Have Some Messy Conversations
This is probably the most important step, and also (naturally) the one people tend to like the least. Setting a new direction is not an easy thing to do, and the process is not simple and straightforward. So prepare yourself for a few meetings that don’t result in concrete solutions, and accept the fact that big decisions generally take more than an hour of thought before the right answer presents itself.
See Which Ideas Survive
If you began this process with ten ideas, it’s likely that a few of them only have the support of one or two people. It’s also likely that a few of them will turn out to be impractical, too expensive, or otherwise inappropriate for your business. The ones left over are the ones that have proven themselves to be interesting and viable, and slowly you’ll start to see where you should be concentrating your time and attention.
Have Some More Messy Conversations
I think you see where this is going.
Continue Until You’ve Settled On A Strategy
Eventually, inevitably, you’ll figure out what you want to do. That doesn’t mean everyone is going to be in perfect agreement – very few strategies have unanimous and unqualified approval – but it does mean that you’ve analyzed all the possibilities, given everyone an opportunity to voice their support and concerns, and settled on something that the majority of your organization is excited to implement.
Charting a new course is a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be a painful one. As long as you’re willing to listen to others and open yourself up to the minor chaos of a few wide-ranging conversations, you’ll find what you’re looking for.