Nine “Top Level” Questions for Presidents to Guide Strategy Development

Becky Morehouse

Becky Morehouse

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As the leader, one of your most important jobs is to identify the strategy that will move your institution forward.

To help you succeed in this task, I’ve posed nine questions for you to answer that will help determine the strategy necessary to help your institution not only survive, but flourish.

1. Current Position

Firstly, have you carefully described your current position? Do you know who you are and why you are who you are? Have you identified the major internal challenges you face? Do you have a clear understanding why the strategic plan and strategy execution might not have lived up to expectations in the past? Is your organization ready for change? If not, what needs to happen? Being candid and honest at this initial stage is critical.

2. Future Vision

Do you have a truly compelling vision for the future? Is your vision clear? In addition, is your vision credible? Is it intuitive? Has it been declared? Does everyone in the organization know how they fit with it? Where will you need to be nimbler to achieve your vision? Conversely, where do you need to draw the line around things that you will not change?

3. Research

Have you conducted the necessary research?

Identify Audience

Have you clearly and in detail identified those people most involved in your success? Similarly, have you identified viable segments? Do you understand their emerging needs and expectations? Do you understand their behaviors and attitudes? Additionally, do you understand how they define value?

Audience Geography

Have you clarified your target geography? Do you know where your most important audiences live? Have you looked at possible alliances/cobranding opportunities in those areas?


Have you identified and profiled those entities with which you compete for students, donors, and public and media attention? Furthermore, have you conducted careful competitor analysis to identify potential weaknesses and opportunities?

4. Critical Problems

Based on the above research, have you created a short list of the critical problems you absolutely need to address and the opportunities that you must realize successful? This also involves identifying the biggest roadblocks that must be overcome. Clarify the biggest internal and external threats and make sure your emerging strategic plan acknowledges these realities.

5. More Of, Less Of

Have you created your “more of” and “less of” lists? In other words, do you know what you need to do more of as an organization to be successful? At the same time, have you identified those things you need to quit doing? Beyond people and resources, don’t forget to look at policies and procedures.

6. Competitive Advantages

Have you identified one or more sources of enduring competitive advantage? A competitive advantage is:

  1. Something you do well;
  2. Something that your target audiences value;
  3. Or something that your competitors do not do.

Here’s a key: If you can’t identify your competitive advantages then it is highly likely that your marketplace can’t either.

7. Goals of Your Strategic Plan

Have you created a small list of truly strategic goals help clarify your path forward? Significantly, are these goals clear, measurable, and achievable within current dollar and time resources?

8. Prepared

Equally important, are you prepared to execute? Do your key people have the understanding and bandwidth to execute the strategic plan? Have you dedicated sufficient resources? Are you committed to moving things forward?

9. Define Success

Finally, have you identified and communicated what success looks like? In addition, do you know where you want to be in three, four, or five years? Have you identified intermediate goals and guideposts?

Please let me know if you have a question about these questions, or if you need any help answering them. Thank you! Becky Morehouse – [email protected].

P.S. A companion blog looked at strategy development.

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