I’m fortunate to have been working with changemakers for more than 15 years. It’s inspiring, humbling and frequently frustrating work.
Frustrating because I’ve watched great ideas succeed – for a time – before failing and watched others never get past the drawing board. Frustrating because every venture that fails takes time, money and energy away from others – and in doing so reduces the impact on social and environmental conditions that urgently need changing. I’ve said on many occasions that
… if you’re not going to do it right, go and do it for someone that is …
It’s the reason I’m a sustainable venture strategist. It’s the reason we founded w1sd0m.net.
This post doesn’t seek to answer the question “why do ventures fail” but to provide an effective, sequenced structure for asking questions about your venture that will steer it more effectively toward success.
VISION: The translation of changemakers’ individual and combined values into a strategic and operational framework is frequently ineffective due largely to poorly defined vision. Crafting an effective internal vision statement gives the venture its “True North”. It’s what your leaders are responsible for championing, and it’s the touchstone for all strategic and operational decisions. If it’s incongruent with the vision, you simply don’t do it. Period.
STRATEGY: How are you going to achieve the vision? What are your success metrics? The strategy has to be achievable or it’s purposeless; and if it doesn’t factor in resource constraint, it’s a fantasy.
STRUCTURE & GOVERNANCE: Both organizational and operational structures are best determined after deciding the strategy. Whether you should be a for-profit, non-profit or hybrid is a decision that the strategy will answer. Once answered, develop a governance and operational structure that is congruent with the vision that supports effective implementation of the strategy.
OPERATIONS: Operational activities such as capital raising, team development, branding, collateral design, business development and sales frequently get most of the attention and are where the symptoms of not dealing with the preceding three steps become visible. There’s not much point having an inspiring name, money in the bank and an engaged community if the structure, strategy and vision are deficient.
Most, if not all of the problems social entrepreneurs have set themselves up to solve have been decades if not centuries in the making; take the time to engage with your venture through this framework and create something that is measurable, sustainable and impactful. We need long-term systemic – not short-term symptomatic – change.