How to apply your learnings and make strategic decisions.
This month we celebrated 12 months since we opened the doors to Te Haa o Manukau, which means a good 12 months of solid operations for our start up social enterprise - Ngahere Communities.
We entered into the Te Haa project with some BIGGG players, Auckland Council (through The Southern Initiative), Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (through Grid AKL) and Panuku Development, and it was the biggest business undertaking I had ever taken on, so I needed the biggest amount of courage, good advice and good people I could muster.
Right from the outset, Te Haa was always an ambitious, aspirational, long-term project that was filled with unknowns and assumptions, but we decided to take it on anyway because we believe in the vision for our people and our city of Manukau to see our creative, innovative, entrepreneurial people THRIVE!
Our strategy - Learn as we go.
12 months into the project there are a few things we know:
We have learnt a lot
We have opportunities we hadn't previously thought about
We still have a lot to do
So we took the team (Ngahere staff & directors) away for a weekend to celebrate a massive year, hang out as a team, relax, and also strategise for the next season ahead. We decided to spend just 4 hours of the weekend workshopping on our enterprise, so we had to be clear about the intended outcome and how we would get there.
With the beautiful Manukau Harbour as our backdrop, we got to strategising...
First thing we did was take two sheets of paper and draw a timeline across them, from pre-launch to today's wananga. Top half was for our wins and opportunities, bottom half was for our fails and risks, and we spent a good hour and a half thinking back over the year of all the things that stood out to us. Along the way we took time to unpack, asking why it was important, what we'd learnt from it, what were the things that made it a win or a fail, and venting the frustrations that we had been holding on to.
2. Broaden the horizon
Next we took a bit of time to add any other things to our thinking, things like opportunities we could see opening up, thoughts we'd been having, people and organisations who were approaching us and visions for the future that we had been imagining.
3. Go with your gut
The next step is to narrow the focus, with so many good things going on and opportunities opening up it can be hard sometimes to know where to focus. The best thing is to go with your gut, and a strong, unified team will be in more or less the same wavelength here. We decided to grab our top 3 priorities by asking ourselves "If it was my choice, and I could only choose 3 things to move ahead with, what would they be?" Everyone wrote theirs on Post It notes and we were pretty stoked to see how aligned in thinking we were, of course there were biases (or strengths) depending on each persons roles and personal perspectives, but overall we were able to group the choices and come up with 2 clear(ish) future-focussed pathways to look into, and we set the rest aside for later.
Now that we had 2 main concepts to look into, we started to prototype using Lego. Yo! If you haven't done that before I highly recommend it. Basically you take a bunch of lego and build your idea/business/concept/experience. We did it in 2 small groups which encourages you to talk through what you're thinking, which helps you clarify your idea and helps others understand it. After about 15-20 mins of building it was time to share our prototypes with each other, which was cooooool to watch. As founder and managing director of Ngahere Communities, I was so stoked to see our team speak with confidence about where they think our social enterprise should go, and also how we were going to do it - proud!
We came up with two incredible concepts in this prototype phase, which we called The Paywall and The Empire, and they are now at the forefront of our Ngahere strategy.
5. A New Narrative
The last thing for us to do in this process is to re-write the narrative for Ngahere Communities, with new found clarity and prioritisation, we can throw off any unnecessary words, stories and ideas that have been associated with us, and begin to speak with confidence about who we are, what we're trying to achieve, why we're doing it and how we're going to get there.
We didn't get time to finish #5 over the weekend, but that's okay, it'll emerge pretty soon.
A session like this doesn't solve all the problems and challenges you face as a business owner or social entrepreneur, but it helps you focus your efforts and choose what you give your energy too, allowing the rest to fall away knowing you are heading in the right direction.