Blog | May 24, 2011 | 2 Comments

[your critical path]

[what should drive your work]

In any endeavor, there are obstacles to success. Before you can formulate an effective strategy–or recruit the right people to help you–you have to figure out what is going to stand in your way.

I first heard this concept applied to nonprofit board membership.

Jan Masaoka of Blue Avocado recently spoke at an Association of Fundraising Professionals Silicon Valley meeting about how nonprofits should recruit board members based on the organization’s critical path items, not on who these people are or how much money they have. It was a radically different way of approaching the perennial problem of staffing nonprofit boards with qualified, enthusiastic members. But then I began thinking about how to apply this concept to other aspects of running a nonprofit.

This isn’t the traditional Critical Path Method.

Here’s the Wikipedia definition of what you need for standard CPM:

  1. A list of all activities required to complete the project,
  2. The time (duration) that each activity will take to completion, and
  3. The dependencies between the activities.

Isn’t this what we all learned about how to get serious work done? You probably need this list eventually, but Jan’s idea of a critical path is simply the set of problems you must solve in order to reach your goals.

Your critical path is what is most likely going to stand in your way.

My clients have a number of different challenges:

We need to have an honest conversation about what could get in the way of their success. When you know the potential obstacles, you can conceive a strategy to move over, around, or through them. Some might say that this is negative thinking, starting with challenges instead of aspirations. But we aren’t talking about crafting a mission or vision, we are simply talking about getting work done. You have to know what you’re up against in order to be successful.

Usually these obstacles are staring us right in the face, so we might as well deal with them.

Can you identify your own critical path?

Photo: My daughter and friends on our hiking trip in der Sächsischen Schweiz, Bad Schandau, Germany.

Author: Claire Wagner

I'm a seasoned freelance writer/editor and an enthusiastic community manager. I'm passionate about developing and sharing good content.


Good post Claire — I think it has implications even beyond nonprofits! A thoughtful posting to start the day.


Claire Wagner Reply:

Thanks, Anne. Today, I’m pondering how to apply it to my own business.


Anne Janzer


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