McKinsey Framework for Capacity Building

Conceptualizing capacity into seven dimensions (With a postscript from Paul Light…)

The McKinsey Company has created a useful framework for thinking about the important domains of non profit organization performance:

  1. Aspirations: An organization’s mission, vision, and overarching goals, which collectively articulate its common sense of purpose and direction.
  2. Strategy: The coherent set of actions and programs aimed at fulfilling the organization’s overarching goals.
  3. Organizational Skills: The sum of the organization’s capabilities, including such things (among others) as performance measurement, planning, resource management, and external relationship building.
  4. Human Resources: The collective capabilities, experiences, potential, and commitment of the organization’s board, management team, staff, and volunteers.
  5. Systems and Infrastructure: The organization’s planning, decision making, knowledge management, and administrative systems, as well as the physical and technological assets that support the organization.
  6. Organizational Structure: The combination of governance, organizational design, inter-functional coordination, and individual job descriptions that shape the organization’s legal and management structure.
  7. Culture: The connective tissue that binds together the organization, including shared values and practices, behavior norms, and most important, the organization’s orientation towards performance.


“There is no single pathway to excellence,” observes Paul Light. Furthermore, he suggests, there is little evidence of what works and why it works in the achievement of high performing nonprofits.

McKinsey & Company, Effective Capacity Building in Nonprofit Organizations, Venture Philanthropy Partners (2001)

Paul C. Light, Pathways to Nonprofit Excellence, Brookings Institution Press, Washington, D.C., p. 37. (2002)

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