Strategic conversations are more important than strategic planning

When was the last time you had a conversation about your organization’s strategy? A deep conversation about what it must do to fulfil its destiny? These conversations are priceless. Many social entrepreneurs find them more useful than conventional strategic-planning sessions.

This article discusses the value of the strategic conversation. It also provides some suggestions for how to cultivate this good habit with your leadership team.

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.

How a lean cost structure can improve financial sustainability

Like most commercial organizations, non-profit organizations and social enterprises should strive to keep their fixed costs as lean as possible. Those that do this properly will be more likely to survive financial shocks and stresses, and create dynamic and sustainable organizations.

While many of these organizations have already achieved this state, this article targets those social entrepreneurs who believe their organizations have become too expensive to maintain on an ongoing basis, or are about to enter a risky and uncertain financial territory.

This article shares some important lessons I’ve learned through assisting these organizations to develop budgets, build financial models and review their financial structure.

End-of-year reflection for 2017

The end of the year is approaching once again. Time seems to be “accelerating” recently.

I strongly believe in the value of debriefs at the end of a calendar year, and at the end of a difficult project which did not go as expected.

Formal reflection or debriefs also provide value to non-profit organizations and social enterprises. They help to accelerate learning. I’ve recently facilitated several end-of-year reviews for my clients, and the sessions have proven insightful. I encourage you to schedule time to reflect before this year ends.

Here are some extracts from my review before I took leave on 15 December 2017 for a much-needed break. It sheds some insights into my work with non-profit organizations and social enterprises in South Africa.

The many facets of social enterprise

I see “social enterprise” as a multi-faceted concept, much like a gemstone will appear differently when examined from different perspectives. Social enterprise is a “concept space”, rather than just a “business space”.

This approach has served me well in my consulting work. It has given me a framework and language to explain things and support organizations on their journey. It has provided social entrepreneurs with increased strategic clarity.

This thought-piece unpacks the six principle facets of social enterprise as I see it.

What do we mean by “organizational sustainability”?

Non-profit organizations and social enterprises in South Africa are desperately striving to become “sustainable”. I believe that organizations should have a broader view of “sustainability” and be precise when discussing it. This will make it much easier for these organizations to develop “sustainability strategies”.

This short article explores 10 facets of “organizational sustainability”.

Ten principles that guide my strategy work

My strategy work is guided by a set of philosophies or beliefs that have evolved over the past two decades. These principles permeate all my strategy work while giving it a unique flavour. They help me to get the results I desire. Here are the top 10 that stand out.

Thinking about income generation and profit in a non-profit world

Non-profit organizations and social enterprises that wish to design sustainability strategies need to have clarity around the concepts of income generation and profit, and how to achieve them.

This article aims to debunk some misconceptions around income generation, equity investments, loan finance, and the profits or surpluses that these organizations may generate or receive.

It explains that income and profit emerges from how an organization transacts with its customers. This approach will require organizations to learn new skills, practice new habits and adopt a different mindset. Although embarking on this process may feel intimidating at first, the benefits of being in a stronger strategic and financial position should make it worthwhile.

Social enterprise in South Africa: reflection on trends in 2016

Every December I reflect on the trends among social enterprises in South Africa. I find this exercise very valuable. This year I’ve decided to share my reflection with you.

Here are the top 10 interesting issues or trends I’ve observed in 2016. Note that this is a personal reflection of my experiences; not an unbiased and objective analysis of the sector.

Choosing the right legal form for your social enterprise: insights from a strategy consultant

Many social entrepreneurs are starting out on their journey to change the world, and considering registering an organization. However, there is a drastic shortage of practical information on the type of legal form they should choose for their social enterprise.

This article from February 2016 aims to clear up some of this confusion.

It discusses the pros and cons of the various legal forms available to social enterprises in South Africa. It shows how much opportunity there is and helps to dispel some misconceptions. It encourages social entrepreneurs to launch a brand and immerse themselves in their work. The best legal form for their social enterprise will emerge; in cannot always be determined upfront.

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Cultivating strategic clarity.

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