Any organization that hopes to achieve meaningful change inevitably must build a shared strategy. This is a layered process that requires time, effort, and thoughtfulness in its approach.

Determining a shared strategy begins with answering five questions. First, you must pinpoint who your people are – that is, the people you’re working with and targeting, as well as opposing. Next, you must define your goals, and then determine a theory for how to get the power to achieve those goals, followed by finding specific tactics to follow through with.

The fifth and final step of creating a shared strategy is arguably also the most difficult to get right: laying out a timeline for your organization’s constituents, leadership, and supporters to follow. However, there are ways to envision your timeline that can help your team to plan, pivot, and adapt your actions to new information.

First and foremost, you must recognize that the timeline is not a straight line.

Heating Up and Cooling Down

One of the best ways to imagine your timeline is as a mountain range, where each individual phase is represented by a peak. For each stage of the strategy, there is a segment of time when you and your team will be building up, followed by a segment of time when you can take some space to breathe, consider the failures and successes of the previous phase, and plan for what’s next.

The specifics of each phase of a campaign timeline can vary greatly, from neighborhood door-knocking to establish support to fundraising to build resources. What’s important, though, is to acknowledge each of these phases as their own individual mini-campaign, each with its own tactics and goals that contribute to the overall shared strategy. 

Rather than a sole exhausting and strenuous climb up the mountain, you and your constituents, colleagues, and supporters are conquering a series of smaller peaks, each of which gets you closer to the summit.

Taking the Time to Evaluate

Winning strategies rarely remain the same from beginning to end; they maintain a degree of flexibility, allowing the organization to tweak tactics as new information is received.

This is where the “valleys” of a shared strategy’s “peaks and valleys” come into play. These downtimes between each mini-campaign provide an opportunity for taking in all the data you’ve gathered, reflecting on which goals you’ve reached and which you’ve missed, and preparing your team for the next phase, including potentially retraining when necessary.

For many organizations, this time of adjustment is the first thing to get cut, whether due to lack of resources, a sense of urgency, or simply not valuing the more thoughtful approach to strategy. Removing these valleys is a mistake. They are an essential part of the campaign process, and without them, campaigns tend to turn towards more reactionary models and often suffer from burnout among staff and volunteers.

Think of Campaigns as Stories

As a campaign progresses, it forms a narrative that shares the same structure as any great piece of fiction. A group’s foundation functions as a prologue, while each peak plays out like subsequent acts of the tale being told. The final peak is the story’s dénouement, and a successful shared strategy leads to a happy ending.

By looking at your overarching plans and goals as a story, you can begin to see how a great campaign builds momentum. Each peak of the mountain — each act of the narrative — helps push toward the primary objective, reinforcing the investment of the team as they overcome obstacles and refine their approach.

Check out a Wild workshop for more insight into creating and succeeding with your shared strategy.