Faced with a challenge, the questions come quickly. Who’s in charge? Who’s responsible for what? Should we form a committee or task force? The questions are all about how to get organised.
But my experience saving a school showed that you can accomplish a lot without formal organisation, as long as you have one vital thing.
In May 2007, our little village school was threatened with closure. Over two hundred people – almost as many people as live in the village – came to a public meeting that had been arranged.
But at the follow-up meeting where it was going to be decided what action to take, a lot fewer people turned up. No-one had time to shoulder the responsibility of leading the campaign. We all had busy enough lives already.
Over the summer, I created, wrote and edited a blog that became the communications hub for the campaign. Other people took on tasks that they felt they were best suited to, such as analysing finances, writing reports, or doing research.
No-one was in charge. There wasn’t any formal organisation. Yet in October 2007, we won the campaign.
Frankly, I was surprised that we’d managed to come through without more organisation, since that had been such a feature of the companies I’d worked for. And I’d always thought that effective campaigns were tightly run affairs.
What we did have though was a very, very clear objective. And only one.
We all knew what our one single goal was: we were going to save the school. With that clarity, it was easy for people to contribute what they could do best.
Since that victory, what I learned in saving the school has led me to ask better questions when working with clients on the development of their business.
Having learned that people like to get engaged in fighting a cause that they care about, I ask “How can we turn the growth of the company into something that feels like a campaign for something that is right?” Letting people figure out what they can do best is much more powerful than handing them a list of tasks and telling them who they report to.
And asking “What is the one thing that we have to achieve?” is a very different question from “What are all the things we must do?” – and a much better one too. Focus is essential.
Tell me – in the comments – have you found success by focusing on a single clear campaigning goal?