What Are Your Must-Win Battles?

I’ve begun using this term a lot in the past six months (thanks Patrick).

Within every community strategic plan we create, we try to separate the critically important things which have to go well from things which can be ok.

The must-win battles are the hard part of our work.

Some examples might be:

  • Creating a world-class website that members love and facilitates the right kind of engagement within the budget and resources we have available.
  • Getting resources and support from key stakeholders to harness the full value of the community.
  • Getting top experts to share their best knowledge in the community in a way that others can benefit from.
  • Getting our audience into the habit of visiting the community and feeling comfortable asking questions…

Each of these leads into a series of smaller tasks (finding the right vendor, negotiating price, working with an implementing partner, ensuring the design is workable etc…).

Once you know what your must-win battles are (the things that truly decide if your strategy succeeds or fails) you should act like a general and allocate the bulk of your resources to winning them decisively.

Unsurprisingly, the key to winning your must-win battles is always preparation.

1) Become an expert on winning each battle. You’re not the first person to have done this. Find others who have been there before by asking in relevant communities. Meet with them, pepper them with questions, and identify every possible landmine (especially do this with vendors). Build a list of as many good examples as possible. Learn every trick in the book. Get consultancy help if you need.

2) Deeply understand your members. Interview dozens of members, undertake good surveys, really get into the heads of your members and understand what makes them tick. Don’t be afraid to be bold and different if you know members will love it.

3) Get good at building relationships. If building close relationships with stakeholders or members isn’t your strength, take the time to learn how to do it extremely well. Find a mentor, take training or lessons to improve your social skills and charisma.

By far the most common reason must-win battles are lost is when no-one prepared to win them well. If you want to win them, equip yourself with the skills, knowledge, and resources you need to win them decisively.

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