In Praise of Operations: Making "What Works" Actually Work
By Sarah Ford on July 31, 2014
Source: The Bridgespan Group
By Paul Carttar
The fundamental value proposition of the "what works" movement is that the lives of many people in need can be materially improved by expanding the reach of programs and organizations that reliably yield strong results for those they serve.
Which leads me to this question: why do we in the social sector give so little attention to operations—that is, what makes "what works" actually work?
Peruse the sector's journals, blogs, webinars, and conference themes and what do you see? Pretty much anything but ops. They seem to be dominated by more glamorous subjects: the invention of new programs and interventions, the application of "design thinking" to routine problems, scaling, policy advocacy and "systems change," novel approaches to luring private capital into the social-purpose marketplace (such as social impact bonds and "impact investing"), even scientific methods of proving what works.
But what about delivering what works? Rarely addressed is the need for quality and consistency of a program's performance, not to mention the painstaking, repetitious internal processes required to produce outstanding results–in a word, "operations."