Charities have to consider their strategy just as much as commercial organisations and sometimes there can be a mismatch in the language they use which makes it difficult to relate the lessons of management theory to the practices within a charity.

One of the most helpful concepts in developing a company strategy is the idea of Strategic Themes.  This was developed by Treacy and Wiersema.  The benefit of these themes is to focus your strategy, and give clarity to the aims of the company and how it markets itself.

The three themes are:

  • Operational Excellence – fast efficient delivery and low prices
  • Customer Intimacy – products or services tailored to fit the customer or niche market
  • Product Leadership – State-of-the-art products or services

This all sounds very corporate, but similar concepts apply to the charitable sector.  Where Operational Excellence could mean becoming very efficient at moving goods, e.g. those charities who ship second-hand clothes to Africa.  Customer Intimacy is probably the focus of many charities where the primary focus is to care for people, such as nursing care or providing food for the homeless.  Product Leadership might involve developing a new concept such as TOMS shoes (where for every pair of shoes you buy one gets sent to needy people in a third world country).

Remembering that choosing a theme is an issue of what you want to focus on.  Most companies and charities will have elements of all three in their operations, but focussing on one of them helps clarify your message and your internal priorities.

If you’d like to learn more about strategic themes you may be interested in our Strategic Thinking and Decision Making course