Look Up Here, Look Up Here

In the university class I’m teaching (workplace writing for social enterprise), some of mystudents are developing business plans or turnaround plans. Three_amigos_ver2Students (and harried executives and perhaps also, ambitious founders) tend to rush toward action steps, milestones, and deliverables. But they’ll arrive faster if they start from a calm, reflective, tough-minded place of strategy.

When possible, I like to use quick, vivid analogies as reminders or frames when teaching—or rather, sharing—essential ideas. And this morning I remembered something I’d written about years ago, having recalled it from a totally ridiculous but (to me) hilarious movie.

So, from the Way Back Machine (blog post from Monday, March 02, 2009)

Recently for a modern music and dance nonprofit, ChangeMatters researched business and funding models of peer and more established (and famous) organizations in that particular genre. As part of that, I fiddled with one of the tools from David LaPiana’s new book, so we could compare and contrast structure. It helped the co-founder make some straightforward choices about immediate strategy.

That experience and some other work we’ve done with client-partners about strategy and strategic planning remind me of key “quick strategy” principles (leadership by sticky note):


1. What is the critical issue (or opportunity)?

2. What is your competitive advantage (most powerful strength)?

3. Lean on 2 to address 1. That’s your strategy.


Now, this afternoon, I was telling my mother, who directs a midwest regional organization of churchlady volunteers, about LaPiana’s idea. And she said, “Oh, like in The Three Amigos.” Immediately, I understood her point (because we like that movie). And I quote (from the excerpt as it appears on The Internet):


Ned Nederlander: This is not a town of weaklings! You can use your strengths against El Guapo. Now, what is it that this town really does well?

Townspeople: Hmmm. Hmmm? Ummm.

[long pause]

Mama Sanchez: We can sew!


P.S. Here’s the clip of how the town of Santa Poco carried out their strategy. And the results.