January 23, 2018

Managers Can Prevent Organizational Resources from Flying Out the Window!

ginny trierweilerWEBby Ginny Trierweiler, PhD

Nonprofit and other mission-based organizations fulfill some of the most important and fundamental needs in our communities.  As important as the missions of these organizations are, their leaders confront great challenges these days when it comes to maximizing their organization’s impact.  Too often, many of their resources are simply flying out the window!

At least that’s how I see it.  As someone who has directed and consulted to such organizations for the past 15 years, I have seen scant resources of important organizations being wasted.  There are serious systemic challenges that can get in the way of ensuring that scant resources are maximized.  And managers are in a great position to manage these challenges so that the organization’s mission can be most fully realized.

What causes this resource-escape problem and what can leaders do to ensure the greatest impact?

Common Causes of Resources Flying out the Window

  1. Bureaucratic requirements divert energy from the mission. Many nonprofit organizations receive a substantial portion of their funding from tax dollars which come with myriad bureaucratic requirements. These kinds of requirements create a need for qualified staff to do that bureaucratic work and often create an organizational tension between compliance and innovation which can be tricky to manage.
  2.  The rapid pace of change overwhelms the organization’s ability to adapt. Change now occurs at an unprecedented pace and this can threaten organizational focus and functioning. Mission-based leaders must lead their organizations in new ways which support successful organizational functioning in an increasingly complex environment.
  3. An organizational culture exists which hinders effective work. Culture issues can make collaboration, coordination, problem-solving, and innovation difficult. Whether it is a culture of blaming, a culture of unhealthy competition, or one in which people perceive unfair treatment of certain individuals or groups, an unhealthy organizational culture can be the cause of a huge amount of “resource escape!”
  4.  Staffing issues.  One common issue I hear from mission-based leaders is that too many staff are unproductive and too many systems issues aren’t effectively addressed in a timely manner. In addition, in a constantly shifting environment, it is sometimes necessary to add staff in one area, reduce in another, and replace staff elsewhere. Whether you need to develop staff in new technologies, bring in some new skills, or scale back in some areas, staffing issues must be addressed as any of these can produce myriad resource-wasting results.

Maximizing Your Organization’s Impact

With all these very common resource-wasting challenges inherent in the mission-based organization, what are mission-based leaders to do?

  1. Consistently communicate a clear and compelling direction.  Develop effective mechanisms for clearing up diverging opinions among organizational leaders about direction, goals, and priorities. Develop mechanisms for testing whether the direction is clear to everyone.
  2. Recruit and retain the best.  The mission-based leaders who are driven by a mindset of scarcity tend to hire inexperienced and unskilled staff.  To deliver on your promises of quality and care, you need staff at every level to demonstrate judgment and professionalism.  You need the best to deliver on your mission!
  3. Establish a culture of professionalism and high expectations. Culture matters—a lot.  Mission-based leaders must make it a priority to create and sustain a healthy organizational culture.
  4. Create an organizational structure that empowers staff to make the best decisions on a day to day basis. With increasing complexity and rapid change, it becomes necessary to rely on more staff to make more independent decisions on a daily basis.  It’s just not possible to provide constant oversight and direction in today’s world.  And empowered staff will be happier and more productive.

Ginny Trierweiler teaches High Impact Management for Mission Based Organizations (next class 4/22/15!) and Nonprofit Leadership Team Building. Browse other upcoming dates for all her classes.