Jonathan Reed’s take on the importance and state of some of the key management disciplines that he has consulted in for the past three decades:

Strategic planning

In my estimation, this field is up for grabs. There is no generally accepted approach to planning strategically. As mentioned elsewhere on this site, the dirty little secret about strategic planning is that 90% of the time it fails to make organizations more successful. And that’s for corporations! The odds are probably worse for nonprofits and governmental institutions.

I consider Henry Mintzberg (McGill University)—along with Peter Drucker, Jim Collins, and several others—to be the most astute observers and practitioners of management in the western world. If you want to understand the bewildering state of strategic planning, read some ofMintzberg’s articles and books. You’ll find some of them in the bibliography of our Strategic Planning Guide.

As I mentioned elsewhere, I’ve abandoned all the traditional strategic planning models I’ve tried midstream in my planning work with organizations. The reason is that they just don’t get to the point fast enough. The point I’m talking about is what the organization needs to do better or different to be more successful. Plus, current planning models have lots of other problems besides dawdling away planners’ time.

So, I built a new strategic planning model that gets to the point right it away by zeroing in on what supports, produces, and drives an organization’s success. I also incorporate the powerful ideas and tools of strategic marketing into strategic planning. I consider both to be contributions to strategic planning.

Strategic marketing

This is the diamond in the rough for world-changing organizations. If the success of most world-changing organizations depended on making stuff, quality improve would get my top billing. But it doesn’t. Their success depends on better strategy, marketing, and leadership. So the field of strategic marketing not only addresses the second subject on this list but it also makes strategic planning much more effective. If there were a dean of strategic marketing, it would be Philip Kotler at Northwestern University. We’ve based much of our guide, Strategic Marketing: To Better Understand, Engage, and Serve Those Who Determine Your Success, on his classification and approach to strategic marketing.

Although most don’t realize it, the success of the vast majority of world-changing organizations depends on strategic marketing: to better understand, engage, and serve those who determine their success. The field of strategic marketing is well-developed and battle-tested among legions of corporations who battle it out daily in today’s marketplaces—with branding being the most potent weapon in their arsenals. Why not harness the power of strategic marketing and, in particular, branding to better reach those one serves and relies on for support to make the world a better place?

I believe I know the answer to this question: the ideas and tools of strategic marketing remain opaque to all but the largest world-changing organizations, which can afford to hire squadrons of professional marketers. Here’s a challenge for you: go to your local bookstore, buy a book on marketing, read it, and see if you both understand it and can apply it to your organization. My bet is you can’t. The reason: nobody has bothered to translate strategic marketing into ideas and terms that make sense to world-changing organizations. Though there are some books on marketing for nonprofits, I think you’ll find all but one of them watered-down versions of their corporate cousins.

The only worthwhile book I’ve read on marketing for nonprofits (but not more broadly on world-changing organizations) is Strategic Marketing for Nonprofit Organizations by Alan Andreasen (Georgetown University) and Philip Kotler. I commend these authors for their tour de force treatment of this topic. But, there’s a catch. I consider it a graduate-level marketing text that’s arduous to plow through. To be honest, I found it a tough read. Great ideas and tools, but as a friend of mine once said, “You pay the cost to be the boss.” I also quibble with some of their terminology, which, if simplified, could make for a less precipitous climb for readers. Our marketing guide covers much the same ground but over more even terrain. To summarize: strategic marketing holds the keys to much of what world-changing organizations need to know and practice to be more successful.

Leadership and management

It seems that every expert has his or her own “take” these fields. In other words, there is little agreement as to the best approaches. To cite one critical divergence in approach consider Management by Objective (MBO), probably the dominant management paradigm in the West, vs. Quality Improvement’s focus on process improvement, systems thinking, and customer focus. MBO encourages employees to harness their drive and ambition to meet their annual “numbers” (think: Enron) while QI encourages teams to improve their processes to satisfy their customers’ needs better (think: Toyota). Any guess which approach is better? The Gallup Organization, which has surveyed millions of employees and many organizations, probably has the best handle on what works best for supervisors. We describe their approach in our Manager’s Survival Guide.

Quality improvement

This is a mature and arguably the important management discipline in the history of the world. Current six-sigma industrial programs are offspring of Quality Improvement (QI). Some US corporations practice QI, others thought they didn’t need to, like GM. Nevertheless, QI is a mature field with proven methodologies and an excellent track record. Unfortunately, much of what it has to offer won’t help most world-changing organizations. Their challenges involve improving their strategy, marketing, and leadership; not improving processes and systems. (And, yes, I’m aware that QI involves a lot more than this—but I’m generalizing.)