risks ahead road sign

Tough times, tough choices

By Abigail Rotheroe 7 October 2014

The renowned management guru Michael Porter claims ‘the essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.’ It sounds obvious, but stating the obvious can sometimes be very helpful.

The charities we work with face a seemingly non-stop escalation in demand and fall in resources. There is only so much harder and smarter organisations can work; at some point difficult choices have to be made.

Platform 51, the women’s charity, changed its name and pulled out of frontline service provision to focus on its campaigning and influencing work. An organisation I previously worked with withdrew from an ultra competitive area to concentrate on a service they had more control over and where their real USP lay. Scope are currently proposing to close their care homes in favour of small units and are consulting with service users over the next three years to get their opinions.

Difficult choices are much more personal in our sector—they affect people’s lives in a direct and immediate way. In our work, we have found that organisations really value being able to approach these choices using a framework to guide thought and decision. And so this forms part of the strategy consulting that we offer individually to charities and have now developed into a training course.

The framework is based on our strategy triangle.

The process focuses on core purpose, the resources of your charity and the external environment. Within each of these areas the training will take you through the tools you can use to structure your research.

Looking at core purpose, for example, NPC uses a theory of change approach to pin down your social goal and what it will take to achieve it. When reviewing internal resources, it is important to take a hard look at your governance structure. Is it fit for purpose? If analysing developments in the external environment, needs mapping can help determine if needs are being met and if so who is doing this most effectively. The three areas can then be drawn together to develop strategy.

Our work in this area unashamedly borrows consultancy models that provide a useful framework for analysing options—such as market attractiveness grids and risk cubes—but also uses tools specifically adapted for the sector. The session also covers strategy implementation and how to assess success. For as Winston Churchill said ‘However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.’

The next session is on 13 November; it lasts a day and will involve a maximum number of 15 participants. Do please contact info@thinknpc.org if you have questions about any future events, or visit the events page of our website.