Monday, October 17, 2011

Can You Plan Without Passion?

WELL, I GUESS THE SHORT ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION IS 'YES'.  Plans are concocted everyday for all sorts of things from grocery lists to multi-year programmatic initiatives and I can see where many of them can be accomplished with little reflection and less excitement for the results.  There are proponents who assure us that even the most complex plans can be achieved with short, highly focused bursts of effort.  And, indeed, that's possible.  But it seems to me that any plan will lack dimension and luster if it's written as an internal 'beat the clock' exercise or a requirement to satisfy someone else's desire.

The best planning is borne of possibility and one's own desire to marry the here-and-now with the what-if's and can-do's.  Its underlying thesis has everything to do with making aspirations reality, even if the aspiration is as universal or as necessary as getting out of debt or revisioning the work of a downsized staff.  

When done right, most types of organizational planning take time and talent to complete, but it is rarely a draining experience, often it's just the opposite.  Yet, I've seen many organizations approach the idea of planning as a burden, a maze to get through, or as one trustee exclaimed, "So we don't have to do this again for another 50 years!"  Really???  

Is it really mind-numbing or wasteful work to consider an organization's future beyond the regular board meeting?  Is it somehow inappropriate to chart a big or better future for an organization rather than letting circumstance chart it for you?  Is the idea of thinking beyond one's personal interests too big a leap to take?  Too risky?

All I think I can say in response is if an organization is willing to invest its resources to any degree to plan for its future, why ever would it not want to be fully committed to exploring the possibilities, the potential and, yes, the pitfalls that lie ahead?    Why ever would it not want to dig into bridging the gaps of what exists now with what could be?  

I guess the question isn't so much can you plan without passion as it is why would you purposely plan half-heartedly?  Why would any organization waste such an opportunity to lift up the hood and examine the engine?  And why wouldn't that be exciting as well as challenging?

Image:  Neighborhood Plan Update...from litlnemo

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Boardroom Blues


So, what should be on the agenda instead?  

How about trying a little strategy ....  using the organization's plan and key success indicators to evaluate how well program is meeting mission?
Maybe ditching most of those reports of past activities to free up time to discuss future steps?

How about breaking into smaller discussion groups for a deeper dive into issues?

Would a staff or volunteer presentation, a brief tour of a project, or a hands-on activity help board members to better understand your challenges and opportunities?

We talk a lot about how to engage audiences.  Shouldn't engagement of the board be a top priority?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Leading With Your Servant's Heart

THERE'S NO DOUBT ABOUT IT:  WORKING IN THE NONPROFIT SECTOR is an act of commitment -- often an act of faith -- and always an act of service.  Doesn't matter if you're the head of a major performing arts center or a volunteer manning the reception desk, most of us are drawn to the sector because its meaning is bigger than us.

I became more conscious of this reality this summer as I listened to the staff leaders of a nonprofit repeatedly introduce themselves by using the words "I serve".  I wrote about that experience here and since then I've had a lively exchange with one of my former clients about this wonderful notion of nonprofit service and the importance of the words we choose to describe our relationships to the organizations we care about.

Imagine my delight when I discovered Ken Blanchard's post, Keep Focused on Your 'Servant Heart':
Try to keep focused on leading with a servant’s heart.  It can be part of your daily habits, such as how you enter your day by reminding yourself of the difference you can make in the world. It’s a matter of making a habit of practicing a helpful attitude when you are interacting with people. The question you want to keep top of mind is, “How can I help?”
How we describe our relationship to our work must, of course, flow from a deep-seated attitude of service.  When was the last time you reflected on why you chose the path of nonprofit work?