When the Aim is to Disappear

Claudio Drapkin

"Dianova will fulfill its goal when there are no longer vulnerable people who need its help – Real success is about not being needed anymore"

On the occasion of the International Volunteer Day, we publish an article about a workshop held in our last assembly by Claudio Drapkin, the theme of which was “Strategy and Decision Making”. Our objective was to create a frame of reference and to accelerate the strategic discussion that we carried out during the assembly meeting.

Claudio is the managing partner of SOLO Consultores a member of the Advisory Board of the Instituto Relacional of Barcelona, and an Academic Assistant at ESADE, idEC-UPF Barcelona School of Management and EAE.

Verdades en juego, by Claudio Drapkin

The mission of SOLO Consultants and its team is focused on supporting change processes and transformation in organizations in different fields and sectors from a specific perspective, the Total Value Model[1], which seeks to synthesize an organization's management tools in order to become sustainable in uncertain environments: the capacity to generate economic value at the same level as relational value, developing a suitable level of capacity for change and adaptation.

After giving a general conceptual framework of what strategy is and its role in organizational management, Claudio provided an overview of the considerations that strategic reflection must take into account at present.  The VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) environment in which we are immersed requires a much more complex and open approach than the merely sequential and linear process of the classic approach of strategic design. For that reason, he proposed the following the six key ideas:

  •   The purpose of stragegy is to surviveStrategic thought is that way of thinking that increases our opportunities for “remaining”, action and development.
  •   Strategy is about looking for the dovetail between the internal and external environments. Strategy is merely a particular response from within an organization to what the environment requires. It entails an adaptive response that takes different forms: it can be a plan for the future, a pattern of coherent behaviors over time, a certain position in the “market” or a tactical maneuver at a specific point in time.
  •   Strategy is about listening and understanding the environment in depth. Strategy implies developing sensitivity and appropriate monitoring of evolution and trends in the environment. For that reason, it is strategic to know how to read this environment, even more so as globalization and the advance of knowledge and technology have made the environment an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and more ambiguous space. 
  •   Strategy is about creating organizational intelligence. Strategy is understanding that the past does not explain the future and that the ability to process one's environment to provide a suitable response implies developing the ability to understand, prioritize, systematize, classify what is happening and make flexible organizational processes, resources and beliefs.
  •   Strategy is causing things to happen. Strategy is sustained by an organization's ability to turn it into efficient and effective actions, into operative excellence.
  •   Strategy is the process that ensures that identity is preserved. Strategy, when looking for survival, is at the service of identity preservation. For that reason, the organization becomes more powerful as its identity becomes stronger in terms of answering these questions: What do we do? Why do we do it? and How do we do it ?

The morning concluded with an open conversation on the questions raised by the talk as well as an evaluation of the extent that these six key ideas are present or not in  Dianova.

It was an open, participative dialogue that ended with a reflection that engendered a final lesson us for all. Basically, the strategy posed by the first key idea hides a paradox for Dianova.

Dianova will fulfill its ultimate goal when there are no longer vulnerable people who need its help. It will fulfill its purpose when it will have developed a real autonomy for its beneficiaries – when they no longer need the organization.

Real success is about not being needed anymore. The final objective is to have no more beneficiaries ! The better we do our job, the closer we will come to not being needed. What a powerful paradox and what an even more powerful challenge!

[1] Shown in the book “Verdades en Juego: Un mapa para construir organizaciones poderosas”. Drapkin. C. Códice Editorial (2014)

Translators without BordersThe English translation of this article was provided by Translators without Borders, a non-profit association set up to provide pro bono translation services for humanitarian non-profits