Mark Loch recently joined Redstone as a Director, after assisting us for the past year as a resident advisor. Mark is a Director Emeritus at McKinsey & Company where he helped for-profit and not-for-profit clients design and launch their business development and growth strategies in Africa, Latin America, and the US. Redstone’s Max Dovala talked to Mark about joining Redstone, his extensive career in consulting, and what inspired his involvement in the social sector.

Max: What inspired you to join Redstone?

Mark: I have always been involved in the social sector, both professionally and privately. In particular, the ten years I spent helping McKinsey establish its presence in Africa allowed me to support efforts to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and in particular, the plight of AIDS orphans in South Africa.

Those experiences led me to believe that many of the world’s urgent social problems require better collaboration between the private, philanthropic, and public sectors. For example, I believe that climate response and sustainability begs for immediate attention and collaboration. Transforming economies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the quality of life for current and future generations will require companies, foundations, and governments to work together as they never have before.

Redstone’s strong commitment to solve urgent social problems, and its reputation with clients to deliver rigorous solutions, is a great way for me to work within the philanthropic and public sectors. Outside of Redstone, I also continue to support early stage new ventures in climate response and sustainability. Through the combination of these interests, I hope to deliver more powerful solutions for our clients.

You helped establish McKinsey’s presence in Africa. What did you learn from that experience?

I moved to South Africa two weeks after the tragedies in the US surrounding Sept. 11, 2001, and just a few years after the end of apartheid. Here are four practices that I honed in Africa and still carry with me today.

  • Embrace creative chaos: Insights and innovation often emerge on the edge of chaos. And, embracing the unknown generates a continuous pipeline of renewal. The right question is “what is there to learn from this situation” when times are good and when times are difficult.
  • Open-eyed optimism: Avoid rose-colored glasses, but trust that everything will work out. A positive mindset generates a sense of hope and openness that invites ideas, support, and excitement for solutions that might not be considered otherwise.
  • Purposeful persistence: Make sure that ambitions and actions are grounded in a purpose and meaning that bolsters conviction and commitment at moments of truth. Life is a long series of ups and downs, and often, the most challenging moments are right before the summit.
  • Trust-based relationships: You cannot do it alone. If one is open and listening, the people around you will keep you grounded, help you learn what you do not already know, and help soften the blow when you fall. These like-minded family, friends, and colleagues are the means for achieving enduring impact that sustains and extends beyond one’s own contributions.

Strategy and organization are inextricably linked. How do sophisticated institutions manage that interplay effectively?

Everyone knows the principle that structure follows strategy. Of course, this is only relevant at a given moment in time. Continuous learning and iteration should also stimulate adjustments in strategy and structure. The most successful organizations constantly transform through this cycle of renewal.

A strategy in the social sector reflects how an institution can distinctively deliver social impact, based on the external context and the skills and assets the institution can deploy. Over time, a successful institution works to close any gaps between what they can deliver and what the context demands. The institution can then assess new opportunities to increase social impact now enabled by enhanced capabilities, and then the cycle starts all over again with a revision to the strategy.

The speed of this cycle determines the institutional impact. If the aspiration and execution lag behind the external context, then the institution loses relevance. Conversely, the institution can achieve larger and more complex goals by progressively renewing itself to distinctively address the context as it evolves. Continuous renewal is essential.

During your time at McKinsey, you helped lead the firm’s work on organizational health and effectiveness. To what extent do you think the organizational models and practices that deliver great performance in the private sector translate into the philanthropic sectors?

There are clearly many crossovers. Regardless of the sector, a manager needs to bring people together to accomplish what the individuals could not do on their own. However, the empirical evidence suggests that philanthropies must deal with several unique realities.

The private sector generally follows a clear and compelling “north star” of maximizing shareholder value. In contrast, philanthropies pursue a wider range of objectives that are often more difficult to assess. This ambiguity creates a central challenge for those seeking to deploy more rigorous strategies and evaluation. However, it can be done.

Philanthropies also inspire commitment to their missions among employees and partners that some businesses could only hope to achieve. However, philanthropies can also benefit from the practices that successful businesses employ to drive execution and impact even when the mission doesn’t inspire. These practices include creating a tangible and enduring strategy, ensuring role clarity and accountability, and implementing strong performance management that rewards impact. Empirical data suggest that philanthropies sometimes give these practices less rigor and attention then they should.

What do you hope to accomplish at Redstone?

The senior team at Redstone and I believe I can add value in three ways:

  • Link my “business development” and “how to accelerate change” experience with our historical strategic planning strengths to create even more robust and sustainable solutions.
  • Bring additional private sector perspectives into our traditionally strong philanthropic and public sector heritage
  • Support our recently opened California office, led by Brent Harris, to develop a vibrant and unified cross-office culture, and to expand our ability to recruit talent and serve clients even more effectively.