Strategic Planning

8 02, 2016

Re-visioning funder impact

By |February 8th, 2016|Evaluation, Best Practices, Strategic Planning, Uncategorized|0 Comments

When it’s hard to see the forest for the trees, it turns out to be not so good for the trees– or the forest. Jennifer Teunon, the Executive Director  of the Medina Foundation has recently written a thoughtful piece on the Philanthropy Northwest blog (reposted from National Center for Family Philanthropy) about the need for grantmakers to re-think their approach to funding for non-profit organizations. She does a great job of describing the corrosive real-world effects on grantees of the program-specific approach to funding favored by most funders in contrast to a general operations funding approach. When funders only look at the specific programs that a non-profit operates rather than its work as a whole (i.e., the infrastructure required to support the whole package), valuable staff time is bled off to respond to ever more granular grantwriting demands. On top of that added stress, program-specific funding also fragments organizations and promotes a silo mentality, sapping a non-profits’ vitality. We appreciate Jennifer’s shout-out to nonprofit leaders who are calling attention to this problem such as our friend Vu Le of Rainier Valley Corps, whose blog often takes on this topic with insight and unicorn jokes. We also appreciate  Jennifer’s recognition that an underlying factor contributing to grantmakers’ narrow focus on programmatic outcomes is the grantmakers’ need to demonstrate its own impact. As she puts it, “I believe [a grantmakers’ tendency towards a granular focus on programs] is primarily because foundations want to understand and quantify their own impact. By earmarking dollars to a specific program, many foundations hope to draw a line from the dollars they give to the outcomes nonprofits achieve.” And that cuts to the heart of the problem…  […]

23 06, 2015

Community coalitions—the next generation

By |June 23rd, 2015|Substance Use Prevention, Strategic Planning|0 Comments

In my work with organizations, I focus on providing services to help them excel at their mission right away. But I often find myself wondering what risks and rewards may await our clients down the road, and how they can position themselves to meet them. History offers many lessons about the need for organizations to periodically re-invent themselves. Once in a while I fantasize about being a consultant to famous leaders of the past who faced golden opportunities for their organizations– like the railroad barons of the late 19th and early 20th century. They were undisputed masters of their world, and very confident in the way they perceived their mission: “We lay rail, and America takes the train.” I would love to have been able to whisper in their ears, “OK, you’ve had a good run, but have you heard of that young Henry Ford guy? Have you heard what he’s building in his garage? Just spitballing here, but maybe you want to rethink that “we lay rail” mission of yours a bit. Because if you don’t tweak your definition of yourself you’re in for a nasty surprise. Maybe instead of defining yourself strictly in terms  of rail, try thinking a little bigger. Something like ‘Whenever America makes a move, it’s on us.’ Because without a broadened mission and a shift from rail to transportation, before you know it you’ll turn into… Amtrak.” The failure of the railroad was not a lack of resources—they had more money than they knew what to do with. It was purely a failure of vision. So, how does this vision thing apply to an organization like yours? Well, let’s take one sector we work with that has opportunity pounding on its door. I refer to community coalitions, particularly those dedicated to drug and alcohol prevention. […]

19 05, 2015

On the Road to Readiness

By |May 19th, 2015|Organizational Readiness, Leadership, Evidence-Based Decision Making, Strategic Planning|0 Comments

As you can see, there was plenty of fist-pumping excitement for evidence-based decision making and organizational readiness yesterday at the the Nonprofit Practices Institute Summit in Chelan WA! It was great to hear the stories of so many dedicated nonprofit leaders who attended from throughout North Central Washington, and to learn about the good work they are doing. TrueBearing’s Dr. Nathan Brown offered double-header workshops: Moneyball for Nonprofits and Ready = Willing + Able. The presentation decks are available, with plenty of supplementary information and practical resources on EBDM and organizational readiness- take a look and put them to good use! Thanks to the Community Foundation of North Central Washington for sponsoring this event! […]

13 01, 2014

Strategic Planning is Dead

By |January 13th, 2014|Evidence-Based Decision Making, Strategic Planning|0 Comments

A recent article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review succinctly makes the case for adaptive strategic planning—that is, a planning process that doesn’t attempt to predict the future, but rather encourages a culture of experimentation, learning, and adaptation. Since at least World War II, the prevailing approach to strategic planning in the business, governmental and nonprofit world has been rooted in traditional military thinking and culture. Based on centuries of hard-won experience, this approach assumes: The past is always the best predictor of the future. Good data is hard to come by, so new information should be greeted with skepticism. Lines of communication are generally unreliable. Therefore a small number of clear directives, not often changed, are essential in order to coordinate the far-flung elements of our operation. […]

10 04, 2012

Context is king: Learn how to fish.

By |April 10th, 2012|Leadership, Best Practices, Strategic Planning|0 Comments

OK, so context is important. But to focus on “everything” is to focus on nothing. Without some sort of filter to determine what’s significant, the world, to quote William James, is a “great, buzzing confusion.” Eventually you must decide which contextual elements are most important with respect to achieving your organization’s mission. So how to prioritize? Well, the philosophy of science tells us that we have a couple of choices. We could start with some a priori assumptions about what makes for effective leadership. Approaching the problem this way means that you rigidly apply those Seven Habits or Six Sigma or One-Minute or Four-Hour principles to every situation, because those are the fixed principles you must accept as valid in every situation and for every leader. […]

9 03, 2012

The First Degree of Freedom: Context is king.

By |March 9th, 2012|Leadership, Best Practices, Strategic Planning|0 Comments

I’ve got a dirty little secret to share with you today. Buried deep inside the guts of far too many popular books on leadership, lies a seductive premise. It’s a premise that sells a lot of books, and it goes something like this: “This books contains Ingredient X, the secret to success as a leader in all circumstances and settings. If only you master the art of X, and perform it rigorously in all situations you face as a leader, then you will succeed.” So X is whatever the author claims to be the secret of success as a leader. Just master that key perspective or skill and make sure that you rigorously apply it to every situation. Be consistent in practicing these enumerated habits or those leadership secrets of Abraham Lincoln/ Jesus Christ/ Attila the Hun and you will be the effective leader you aspire to become. […]

10 02, 2012

The Four Degrees of Freedom

By |February 10th, 2012|Leadership, Best Practices, Strategic Planning|0 Comments

The value proposition for this blog is unassuming but profound (in our humble collective opinion). Indeed, my TrueBearing colleagues and I stake our intellectual and pragmatic passion on four interlocking principles of organizational leadership and decision-making that we refer to as The Four Degrees of Freedom. The Four Degrees are important touchstones in our work as evaluators. Without further ado, here they are: The Four Degrees of Freedom             •  Context is king.             •  It’s always a good time for a gut check.             •  Data rules.             •  Bring it. Tweak it. Repeat. In the next several posts we’ll explore  what the Four Degrees are and why they are so urgently needed in today’s work environment. Let’s start by looking at where the term “four degrees of freedom” came from. […]