Thursday, March 28, 2013
One of the first things I do in a strategy consulting engagement is to encourage organizations to create ways to meaningfully involve stakeholders in the process. Often I get responses like:
“We already know what they think.”
“We just don’t have the time.”
“Huh? Why would we do that?”
We use the term “stakeholders” to refer to any person inside or outside of the organization who feels they have a “stake” or part ownership of the organization. People who feel this ownership can be vital to a strategy process:
*They are a source of valuable ideas on how to guide the future of the organization.
*If involved early on, they can be extremely valuable in the implementation phase of the strategy – whether that’s raising money, promoting awareness, or recruiting volunteers.
*It’s their organization too. The Board and Staff represent the interests of all stakeholders, and there is no better way to represent their interests than by inviting involvement.
Stakeholders can include donors, staff, volunteers, clients, potential collaborators, community leaders, and more. Each organization’s list of key stakeholders is unique.
It is ideal to have representatives of various stakeholder groups actually participate as full members of the strategy development group that does the bulk of the strategy work. In addition, stakeholders can provide input through interviews, focus groups, town hall meetings, surveys, etc. The key is to provide opportunities which feel meaningful and to actually use the input you receive in the strategy process.
A much larger point about involving stakeholders is that is not just something that should be done every five years when you are creating a new strategy. Stakeholder involvement is something that organizations should do systematically all through the year. We really need to think of stakeholders as “co-owners” and to give them the opportunities to meaningfully participate in their organization. It’s the right thing to do and it’s the smart thing to do.
Posted by Dr. Rob Sheehan at 8:17 AM
Monday, March 18, 2013
The importance of innovation is a major theme today among companies and nonprofits.
In recent months, The Chronicle of Philanthropy carried a cover story on innovation. In that article, Amelia Franck Meyer, CEO of Anu Family Services in Hudson, WI was quoted as saying “We’re in an environment where it’s innovate or die.” Wow.
Here are some recent thought-leadership sources for you to check out to learn more about innovation:
*A great TED Talk by Dan Pallota on how we need to rethink “charity.”
*Experts explain how leaders can spur innovation in The Wall Street Journal
*Fast Company’s annual listing of the 50 Most Innovation Companies
*Ten year anniversary articles on social innovation in Stanford Social Innovation Review
*Dr. Gary Hamel’s bi-weekly Management Innovation e-newsletter
The Smith School of Business at Maryland sponsored our annual Business Summit recently and the theme was “Innovation in an Uncertain Economy.” I had the pleasure of moderating a rock star panel made of up Terri Freeman, President of the Community Foundation of the National Capital Region; Allison Fansler, CEO of KIPP DC Schools; Mike Curtin, CEO, DC Central Kitchen; Jatrice Martel Gaiter, EVP of External Affairs, Volunteers of America; and Greg Cantori, President of the Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations.
Each panelist had great examples of innovations in their organizations and the nonprofit world. One of the main themes from the panel was the need for both funders and nonprofits to take more risks, to experiment, and to try new models of services.
Risk and experimentation are not new in the nonprofit world. But in today’s environment, we need to do these things far more often if we are going to be truly innovative. Here’s an example of the mindset at Nike, listed as this year’s Most Innovation Company by Fast Company:
“‘Really cool stuff can come from the opportunity to test without constraints.’ And that, in sum, is innovation, Nike-style: a messy, exhausting process culled from myriad options and countless failures.”
Risk, experimentation, and a tolerance for failure – they all lead to innovation and enhanced Mission Impact. What’s your latest experiment?
Posted by Dr. Rob Sheehan at 4:07 PM
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Is your nonprofit running a Sprint or a Marathon?
Beware – you might be running a Marathon as if you are running a Sprint.
Here are a few questions you can answer that will tell you if your nonprofit is running a Sprint or Marathon:
Is your staff compensated above the seventy-fifth percentile for their positions in comparable organizations?
Do you regularly budget for and produce annual financial surpluses?
Is work – life balance encouraged by leaders and practiced by most employees?
Do you regularly budget for and spend funds on “infrastructure” like technology?
Do all employees have a professional development plan which includes funding?
If you answered NO to all five of these questions, then your organization is definitely running a Sprint.
If you answered YES to all five, then you are running a nicely paced Marathon.
Can those you serve afford for you to be running a Sprint, when you should be running a Marathon? If you take a short term view of your mission, then you use that to justify why you are going all out right now in everything you do. But you then run the risk of burning your people out or losing them to better run “Marathon” organizations or bankrupting your organization. Or maybe worse, you end up doing low quality work which really doesn’t help anyone.
It’s hard. You have a sense of urgency for your organization’s mission. But if – like most nonprofits – your mission addresses a protracted issue, then you need to blend your sense of urgency with a sense of responsibility for the long term thriving (beyond just surviving) of your organization. And that’s making a true Mission Impact.
Posted by Dr. Rob Sheehan at 2:49 PM