I had the pleasure of coaching a colleague over breakfast last week - yes, we met for breakfast, had several cups of coffee, talked about our families and recent travel, and discussed the project she’s working through with a local philanthropy team. Like any experienced consultant/ project leader, she understands her subject matter far better than I could, and she has a strong sense of how and where she wants to take the discussion. You see, she is leading this group of very committed and experienced field workers through a challenge they never imagined - how would we declare success in a community, and under what conditions would we decide to transition our work over to the community itself?
Can you imagine - a relief oriented organization, passionately moved to help others, potentially overwhelmed with the challenge of providing any measure of relief at all, considering the conditions under which they could declare victory? They could take the learnings from one community and apply to another, and perhaps consider successes across a region? across continents? These are the dreams of others, not of those who address the needs of impoverished South America and Sub-Saharan Africa!
The possibility exists… and with a clear methodology, representation from knowledgable players and stakeholders, and attention to measurable outcomes, a plan will emerge. It will take time to develop the key indicators, capabilities needed to sustain the community, and an effective transition plan. But planning for success can also open the possibility for realization of that same success - by defining the change, desired outcome, and how it is different from today’s current situation, we create an environment wherein all are working towards that outcome, creating the environment for capability development, establishing robust processes that can be carried out by the local team. With the foundational elements, the team can work the plan and not just wish for a better tomorrow.
So often, a strategy is a wish for something better, or a great idea that remains just that - a great idea; any outcome worth pursuing deserves a clear transition plan, with specific experiences and measurable outcomes that reinforce successes or setbacks along the way, charting a path for transformation - and success in solving big challenges, on a corporate level, and sometimes on a global scale.