'If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail' Bernard Baruch

I invited my good friend and colleague Dawn Langley (the former Director of Organisational Development at Arts Council) to write a blog about the value of toolkits in re-thinking business models following her great work on the Business Survival Toolkit'.  It is, I feel, a particularly timely piece for future NPOs putting together their business plans this summer.

I have, I now realise, many toolkits in my life both abstract and concrete. There are the obvious ones for the car or the house, although the former is now much less used with the advent of automotive technology. I have my camera kit, my jeweller’s tools, and various other collections I have loosely assembled. They all have some things in common… 

  • They help me create as well as fix or repair
  • They are practical, meant to be used
  • They are often used in combination
  • They require me to think about the job in hand and select appropriately

I have favourite tools, probably beyond their useful life but that are like old friends and constantly useful. Pristine tools that I know I will have a use for someday but in the meantime they will stay neatly wrapped and protected and new discoveries that open up the possibilities. I have bookshelves full of ideas that I see as tools in waiting.

I realise with the Business Survival Toolkit I am in a privileged position. I know how it came about. I know its structure, and the many tools intimately. Simply put, I know how to find exactly the tool I want when I need it. I imagine that coming across it for the first time this could be a daunting task. For some of you just wandering through and clicking on the odd tool will be the best way to explore, for others it may be better to approach it with a clear purpose or question in mind.

The toolkit has a basic framework of four phases – reviewing, visioning, planning and implementing. Like my own toolkits I have tried to include old favourites as well as new thinking. It also has two key messages: 

  1. Act now
  2. Thinking is free so do it more often (sound advice from Kevin Duncan in his book on Small Business Survival)

The tools will not tell you what to do but they are designed to help you find new ways of thinking about the future of your business or practice.

However you come across the tool you choose from the toolkit I really encourage you to lift it off the page and make it your own. Adapt it, tweak it, reflect on it, and share it. It is only with use that tools fulfil their purpose. I hope you enjoy trying them out.

If Dawn's piece inspires you to try out some new tools I can recommend the following:

Tools for Tomorrow from NCVO (also see their own list of useful tools and guide to strategic planning

Tools for success from Centre for Charity Effectiveness at Cass Business School

(Dawn also blogs with Jon Treadway at Bad Culture)

Thanks for reading