Know Your Constraints

Every nonprofit has a mission to achieve a vision where a problem is solved.

So why aren’t they there now?

It’s because they have a small number of constraints, at least one. The constraints could be funding, volunteers, management time, facilities, weather, skills, tools, software, legal, whatever. The constraints could be anything.

 Eliyahu Goldratt, in his book, The Goal, describes a Theory of Constraints. He says the quickest way to move your organization forward is to address your key constraint. Your key constraint is the one that is holding you back the most. Working on any other constraint produces only marginal results. Go for the big dog.

You have to recognize that constraint is and how it limits you.

Where do you start

Sebastian Marshall, in his book Pragma, gives a series of steps.

The first step: observe what is going on. The second step: think about it. Most of us avoid thinking. Just do it. Brainstorm with your staff and stakeholders. Then prioritize. Take action on that one key constraint.

Of course, remember to collect data so you can evaluate the success of your efforts.

Then attack the next constraint. Keep the wheel turning.

There was once a nonprofit that was restrained from serving more clients because they had limited facilities. They could not grow their facilities as they were in a deficit financial condition. They were restrained from focused fundraising as the Executive Director spent all of her available time on daily operations. There was the constraint. The solution was to train her first reports, all volunteers, to take over the daily operations. The organization became revenue-positive within a year and in a new, larger facility, serving more clients with expanded services.