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The OODA loop can help your organization to become more adaptable

The OODA loop is a mental model that can help organizations to adapt to changes in our environment. It explains how we observe our surroundings, orient ourselves, make appropriate decisions and act accordingly.

This model is especially useful for leaders who want their organizations to thrive in our interconnected world where unforeseen events appear rapidly on the horizon. Recent events, including the Covid pandemic and riots, have caused devastation in South Africa. These events impacted our organizations and our lives. The future is unpredictable and has more surprises in store for us.

I have closely observed which organizations have been able to adapt to shifts in their environment versus those that have floundered. Those that successfully adapted were able to cycle effectively through their OODA loops.

This article explains the OODA loop and shares tactics that organizations can use to become better at defending against threats and unlocking opportunities that emerge through changes and shifts in our environment.

This article is a long read of approximately one hour for the average reader. I wrote it intermittently over the span of a year and a half during South Africa’s ‘lockdown’ due to the pandemic. The examples I cite will reflect my work in the field of socio-economic development, as well as my interest in history and military science, which is where I came upon the OODA loop. Nevertheless, the insights will also apply to leaders of all organizations.

Tool for mapping the business model of your non-profit organization or social enterprise

A business model is the unique recipe that an organization uses to earn income and serve its customers and beneficiaries (or participants in the case of a non-profit organization or social enterprise). A business model typically describes what an organization is offering its customers and beneficiaries, as well as its inputs, processes and method of earning income and profits.

Business models design is about configuring the building blocks of an organization so that it is feasible (can work) and viable (can sustain itself).

It is not uncommon for entrepreneurs to play around with different configurations for their organizations until such time as they find one that works.

When unpacking complex and multi-dimensional business models, I prefer to adopt a relationship-orientated approach where I examine all the different parties that are involved in an organization and how they will work together. Only then do I dive into its inner technical workings such as its activities, financial model and legal structures.

Here is a tool that closely resembles the types of questions that I ask social businesses and non-profit organizations when I start to unpack their complex business models. I hope this tool will assist you to interrogate your own business models.

It is so much easier to destroy than to build

I remain distraught and saddened by the recent events in South Africa – the mass rioting and looting that afflicted KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng.

It has been a traumatic series of weeks for millions of South Africans and I recently mentioned how distressed I was by these events.

The situation has somewhat stabilized thanks to the good work of communities, police and SANDF troops. However, the news is fraught with stories of the consequences of this attempted insurrection that occurred over the course of these past weeks. Humanitarian work has begun to alleviate the present suffering and help rebuild.

On the 16th July 2021, President Ramaphosa described the destruction as a result of a “deliberate, coordinated and well-planned attack on our democratic order”.

This cataclysmic event led me to one conclusion – it is hundreds of times easier and quicker to destroy than it takes to create! It has also challenged my hope in South Africa.

Nevertheless, there are some key shifts that would bring some hope to my country.

Feeling distressed about the rioting and looting that is taking place in South Africa

Rioting and looting has engulfed parts of South Africa in July 2021. KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng provinces are currently the most affected.

These riots appear to have morphed into a short-sighted destruction of infrastructure and thousands of businesses. The news is full of images of mass looting. People even seem to be driving to distant shopping malls and warehouses to steal without remorse.

I am very distressed by it. I am unclear about how I can influence the outcome of what is happening. It is a struggle to retain hope right now. The people that I have spoken with feel the same.

Here are my thoughts on the matter.

Five ways for a non-profit organization to earn more income

Last week, a new client asked me the following question, “How can we earn more income and gain more control over how we can spend it?”

This resulted in a productive and impactful discussion. I thought it would be useful to share the highlights with you, and link to other articles and presentations that explain some of the principles in more depth.

Non-profit organizations need to increase their income, and have more control over how this money can be spent, in order to increase their social and environmental impact, and to reduce their financial risk. This is all part of becoming a sustainable non-profit organization.

Inductive and deductive reasoning can help us to solve complex strategic and social problems

Strategy emerges from how we think about the complex problems facing our organizations. These problems might relate to our environment, the challenges faced by our beneficiaries or something inside our organization. To become better at developing strategies, we must learn how to think more clearly and avoid cognitive biases.

My ability to think strategically has benefited immensely from understanding the differences between inductive and deductive reasoning, and understanding when and how to apply them. Inductive reasoning involves ‘bottom up thinking’ – constructing theories from details. In contrast, deductive reasoning involves ‘top down thinking’ – starting with a theory and assuming details that must be true if the theory is valid.

We all have our preferences for one of these types of reasoning when solving complex problems that affect organizations and communities. Nevertheless, it is beneficial to master both types of reasoning so that we can use them when the need arises.

This article summarizes what I have learned so far while diving into this topic. It is a detailed and technical article that will interest people who want to enhance how they use reasoning to solve problems.

Virtual organizations and remote working require more than technology to succeed

Technology has progressed so that people can work remotely and organizations can operate virtually.

Many of us have been fortunate to be able to continue with our work despite the challenges presented by the Covid-19 lockdown.

For many employees, the lockdown has vindicated what they have been trying to tell their bosses all this time – that they can work from home and don’t need to come into the office every day and waste time in traffic.

But working from home has brought its own challenges. Few organizations have been designed to run virtually. Although technology has enabled the remainder of us to get by, the true power of virtual organizations has not been harnessed. In this article I explain why some bosses will be anxious to get everyone back into the office, and how some organizations have been able to master remote work.

Founder’s syndrome undermines the legacy of strong leaders

Founder’s syndrome is a pathological pattern of behaviour that sometimes afflicts the founders of organizations. Management consultants colloquially refer to it as ‘founderitis’

Founder’s syndrome occurs when a strong-minded founder, who battled against odds to build an organization, ends up becoming its biggest constraint to growth.

I see it as an autoimmune disease that infects founders and consequently undermines the organizations that they worked hard to build. I encounter a new case of founder’s syndrome every couple of months in my consulting work.

In this article I’ll define founder’s syndrome and two ways of seeing it. I will also discuss how it is caused, its common symptoms, how it is treated and how to prevent it.

Be hopeful, not optimistic

Recently, I have noticed that there seems to be a shortage of hope in the world.

Despite the incredible progress that we have made as a species, everything seems to be a mess. There are problems everywhere we look.

Yet despite these problems, we need hope to give meaning and direction to our suffering.

This article will reflect on the nature of hope and the three ingredients that constitute it. It will also consider what leaders can do to cultivate genuine hope (and not false hope) among their followers.

Strategy & social enterprise glossary

We’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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In pursuit of strategic clarity

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