What Use is Strategy Without Implementation?

By Josh Jacobson

The title of this post is both rhetorical and practical – what good are solutions if we don’t have the capacity to see them through?

For a firm focused on transformative strategy and thought leadership, it is a quandary and constant consideration. We are proud of our work that has yielded new ways of doing things in the nonprofit sector, but we worry for the capacity of our nonprofit partners to fully embrace new pathways forward. We love exploring how new strategies will define a pathway forward. But without operational excellence, what is the use?

Nonprofits are uniquely challenged due to the lack of available capacity-building capital. Too few donors or funders focus on helping nonprofits grow operationally. Sure, we all love a new program that serves a new population in a different part of town. But who wants to support the boring work of project management, governance transformation, professional development and process improvement?

Well, we do. In fact, we get pretty excited about it.

There are lots of analogies we could use. The ideal game-day playbook without a first-round quarterback. Quality recipes without a kitchen in which to make them. A fancy new technology without a user’s guide.

In short, strategy isn’t going to get you there alone. It takes the right organizational framework to implement new ways of doing things to achieve real success. If the effort fails, was it due to bad strategy or the lack of infrastructure surrounding it?

At Next Stage, we realize that working on one side of the equation is not going to get us there as a community. While we have always embraced the importance of a sound operational model, and it has been a core component of our services since the firm was established, we feel there is more we can do.

In July, Next Stage will be unveiling our new approach to organizational strengthening with a sharp focus on structure, culture and talent. We feel these are the building blocks of quality nonprofit operations, and necessary ingredients to embrace the new approaches that our strategy work brings forward.

We must strive for a stronger nonprofit sector, built to adapt and meet our community’s challenges head on. We look forward to sharing our new framework with you soon. Stay tuned!

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