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End-of-year reflection for 2018

The end of another year is approaching. It has been a challenging year, filled with meaningful work, many lessons and lots of opportunity. There has also been too little time to do everything I’d intended to do.

I believe strongly in the value of reflection and always do a formal debriefing at the end of the year.

Here are some of my thoughts on 2018 before I take leave on Friday 14th December to enjoy a much-needed break. It sheds some light into my work with non-profit organizations and social enterprises in South Africa, and things I’ve learned along the way.

Social enterprise: converging social and profit missions

Trialogue published the 21st edition of the Business in Society Handbook (formally the CSI Handbook) in November 2018.

I contributed to a Q&A on social enterprise. Read my answers on the nature of social enterprise in South Africa, the challenges they are facing, and the opportunities for businesses to partner with them.

Reduce overwhelm by fine-tuning your organization’s systems

Too many leaders have been consumed by their organizations. They’re too busy putting out fires to think about how they want it to run. They’re spending too much time in the “engine room” of their organization, rather than providing strategic direction from the captain’s chair.

I believe that we should learn to adequately appreciate and respect the important systems in our organizations. Then we can then begin to fine-tune them and get things running the way we’ve envisioned

There are signs of automation everywhere; fear of artificial intelligence taking jobs; and the “fourth industrial revolution” haunts the media. The good news is that if we learn to see and work with systems, then we’ll be able to benefit from these trends. We can use them to increase the sustainability and impact of our organizations.

This article will unpack my view of organizational systems and the benefits of working with them.

Assessment for revenue strategy

This 1-page Strategy Brief shows the areas we typically assess when asked to design a Revenue Strategy for a non-profit organization in South Africa.

The findings from this assessment create the foundation we need to design a suitable strategy. This framework is based upon a recent proposal I developed for a client.

Note that we “revenue” as the money that an organization earns through the sale of goods and services (i.e. trading activities). A subset of income.

Assessment for income-generation strategy

This 1-page Strategy Brief shows the areas we typically assess when asked to design an Income-Generation Strategy for a non-profit organization in South Africa.

We try to establish what is going on, working or not working, and what should change or be improved. The answers create the foundation we need to design a suitable strategy. This framework is based upon a recent proposal I developed for a client.

Note that we define “income” as the money coming into an organization, which has been earned or given. Income includes donations, grants, dividends, fees for the sale of goods and services etc. Income includes the donation of non-monetary things (e.g. time, goods and services). Income includes revenue.

Keeping your non-profit organization going: which strategy do you need?

South African non-profits are struggling to generate the income they need to fulfill their purpose and sustain themselves. As such they are embarking on a mix of strategies to improve their circumstances.

However, I’ve noticed that many non-profit organizations in South Africa are confused by the differences between a “revenue strategy” or “social enterprise strategy”, an “income-generation strategy”, a “sustainability strategy”, and an “organizational strategy”. This has led to much confusion with specialists like me being asked to design one type of strategy when an organization wants and needs one of the others.

This article aims to clear up the confusion around which strategy to invest in. It will clearly explain the differences between these four strategies and indicate when each is required. It complements my social enterprise glossary which aims to improve strategic clarity through clarity of language.

Income sources and types

This 1-page Strategy Brief shows the difference between Income Sources and Income Types.

Social Enterprises and Non-Profit Organizations are able to access a broad range of customers and income sources, which they can contract in different ways. It is unwise to think in very narrow channels based on one’s legal form. Here are some ideas.

A month in a consultant’s life: how I spent my time

I am increasingly obsessed with time. Maybe this is a consequence of aging. I see time moving too swiftly. I strive to make the best use of every moment.

I have conducted multiple experiments over the years to see how I can make better use of my time and be more productive at work.

This article concerns my tracking of my work time over a period of one month or 20 workdays. It will yield insight into how this freelancer (or independent management consultant) spends his time. Hopefully the results will still be useful more generally.

I also hope to address the misconception that freelancers spend all their time delivering their service. We must realize that freelancers are still running a business, and therefore need to make time for all the usual business functions within their work week.

“Necessary endings”: why we need to make them to move forward

We are all called upon to make endings in our work and personal lives. This can be a painful process that many of us postpone until it is too late. Endings can also be enabling – they can help us get unstuck and move forward in the right direction.

Learning how to end things is both a life-skill and a leadership-skill.

However, it is one of the things that my clients most struggle with – how to identify when to end something and knowing how to do it in the right way.

The book “Necessary Endings” by Dr Henry Cloud is profound and changed how I work with endings. It is the book that I most frequently recommend to clients. I encourage you to read it. This article pays homage to the wisdom in this book.

This article discusses some themes from the book that are most relevant to my consulting work. It adopts an organizational focus, while the book also explores the role of endings in our personal lives. This article will get you thinking more about the inevitability and value of endings.

Social enterprise glossary

I’ve designed this glossary to help social enterprises and non-profit organizations in South Africa think clearly about their strategies and business models.

Strategic clarity involves clear thinking, and clear thinking requires clarity of language. Many of us also rely too much on jargon, which clutters our minds and encourages lazy and fuzzy thinking.

Here is some of the terminology that I regularly use in my consulting practice and lectures, and my short descriptions of what each term means in simple English.

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Cultivating strategic clarity.

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