CNN ran a story today about how well organized pirates on the high seas have become. As you’ve probably read or heard, pirate attacks are becoming a frequent hazard for sailors –particularly in areas such as off the coast of Somalia, with its highly unstable—some would say non-existent—government. While pirates may appear to be rag-tag bunches of young men in small boats, it turns out they have significant organizations behind them. Ones with strategic business plans. And tactical structures like advisory boards and directors of logistics. They don’t spend their money on fancy boats, but they do outfit their teams with the latest technologies, including GPS. These are deployed systematically, through grass-roots teams on well-equipped small boats, which often foil larger ships with more sailors.
The management approach of pirates got me thinking about what grassroots organizations could learn from pirates. The best know you don’t have to have the fancy ship, but you do have to have a plan for outmaneuvering those with more money and personnel. For starters, having a business plan is essential. Not just for the organization, but also for each program, and even each outreach component. So, for example, to deploy a new YouTube video to members, it’s critical to have a strategy, and then identify a tactical team, a logistics plan, and means of harnessing technologies–not just the medium for the message, but the tools to get eyeballs there and turn those viewers into positive outcomes for your organization.
So one of my New Year’s plans is to remind myself—and my clients—to think more like pirates. But for a much better cause.