The importance of how

In a previous blog, I wrote about the ‘what’ and the ‘why’. But when attending New Philanthropy Capital’s NPC Ignites conference last week (link below), I was really struck by the discussions that related to the importance of ‘how’. Here are the points I noted:

  • 70% of strategic plans don’t get implemented.
  • Budgets support the status quo. The budget setting process is too long, too detailed and bottom-up. The whole organisation can become paralysed whilst it ‘does the budget’. Instead, start from the strategy and think what resources are needed to deliver it.
  • Productivity matters – you are not just looking for impact but also at what cost this is achieved. This resonated with me as a funder because I have to consider the cost of different interventions as well as their expected outcomes. But productivity is also an important factor for charities deciding how best to allocate resources – some interventions may just cost too much.
  • Effective implementation needs both a sense of excitement and dogged perseverance. You need to embed the mission into the culture of the organisation and ensure people hold it in their hearts as well as doing the ‘boring’ bits of implementation like planning and reviewing progress.
  • Research has shown the importance of implementation: you can sometimes achieve more by implementing something well, that failed elsewhere, than by implementing a proven intervention badly.

Implementation is a poor relation when compared to the excited talk there was around digital and measuring impact . But if you don’t actually deliver what you set out to then you can’t bring about change. I was pleased to see its importance highlighted. ‘How’ definitely deserves its place alongside what and why.