Clear. Hold. And Build…

It’s Wednesday! Good Morning and we are that much closer to the weekend.

In the midst of cooking dinner and preparing to write a paper for my doctoral program last night, I realized that I had a few shows on my DVR that needed to be watched. One of the shows was a 2 hour program on The History Channel entitled “War Generals.” I am a huge fan of military strategy and combat to I wanted to see what the show would be about and any applicable lessons I could pull from it. The show was about the modern-day Generals in the Armed Forces that help to construct the strategies of the Vietnam, Gulf War 1-2, Iraq and Afghan wars. A lot of the focus was on the mission elements and combat stories that served for either successes or failures during those tough times.

One of the lessons that stood out to me was the strategy of the war in Afghanistan, which was to “Clear. Hold and Build.” The premise is to clear or root out the enemy. Once you do this, you have a clear path to begin cleaning up the city or holding its position so that the enemy cannot return. The final element is to the build the community back up but not just with infrastructure but with trust and solidarity so they create normal lives. Here’s a link to an article that outlines a bit of it.

This same strategy can be used in your nonprofit businesses as well. Especially in a place that isn’t doing so well or needs to be rebooted for optimal efficiency. First things first, you need to “clear.” Take a look at staffing or programmatic elements that are not working. Clear them out. If you have staff that needs EAP, modified work plans or simply need to be let go [be careful with this one and only follow your HR protocols], then you need to get busy. Keeping around bad or dead elements in your business is bad for business.

Next, “hold” the fort down. During this time, take a look at finances and resources that are being spent or procured. Do you need to hold off on spending to get the books and budget back in order? See what staff are doing and are they vested in the forward motion of the agency. They are the ones that will help in the holding of the line. The “holding” will be one of the difficult steps because there will be some doubt to as what you are doing, things will go wrong and people may not see progress as easily as you do. But you must “hold!”

Finally, it’s time to “build.” Once you’ve cleared and held, you have to build. Build your organization back to the level you wish to see it. Hire or find staff that is mission focused and has fresh ideas about growth. The creation of normal needs to exist on the job and building allows for that. Contact your donor base and begin to build those relationships. Build a new operations plan that will fit with the coming times. What you build is entirely up too you.

So, CLEAR. HOLD. BUILD. It worked in the Afghan conflict. I bet it can work for you!


Keith Cradle



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