Thursday, June 30, 2011

Six Questions for Globalization: Part Two

By Virgil R. Carter

Is your non-profit organization considering globalization? Or have you already begun efforts towards becoming a global organization, and are wondering what’s next? Here’s the second part of six key questions which may help guide your organization’s discussions and decisions about going global.

1. Are your globally available goods and services: a) timely; b) affordable; c) culturally and regionally relevant; d) available in the host country language?

The importance of this question is probably self-explanatory, but many nonprofits haven’t made the necessary important investments in their goods and services to ensure that they offer global value in a global market. It is all too common for U. S. nonprofits to believe that because they offer goods and services, there is interest and demand outside the U.S. Goods and services that are accessible in a timely manner, that have regional content, and have opportunity for host country language are among those that clearly bring highest value to the host country markets and customers.

2. Does your association work with, for, against or ignore similar host country associations?

Sooner or later each association must have a policy and a business plan that provides consistent guidance in situations when there are similar associations, providing similar goods and services, elsewhere in the world. Cooperation and mutual respect is always a good goal, but it can be challenging to achieve. An effective approach for building good relations among similar global organizations is to launch annual exchange visits, followed by low-risk, low-threat joint activities. An early atmosphere of camaraderie and mutual purpose goes a long way towards building good long-term working relationships. Once established, these relationships will be immeasurable in maintaining cooperation and mutual respect.

3. Are you patient?

Globalization is a challenge. It’s usually a substantial investment, and it’s generally not a quick return on investment. It’s a challenge to prepare a suitable business plan and to use resources wisely. It’s a challenge to show measurable results. Patience is required (along with sound business planning and processes). Be prepared and prepare your volunteer leaders. You will be tested.

For those who have successful answers to these questions, you will find globalization to be a rewarding way for your association to continue to do business and to provide the leadership that is the basis for your mission. Good luck!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Connections between Strategy and Operations

by Virgil R. Carter

Most non-profit organizations have a strategic plan. Virtually all of these organizations also have an annual operating budget. Some organizations also develop and use an annual business or operational plan. But what’s the connection among these? How can you, your staff and volunteer leaders assess the connection between your strategy and annual operations?

The business press frequently hosts readable articles on the important connection between strategy and operations. Although written for business, many topics are equally useful for non-profit organizations. Colorful titles suggest the importance of the issue, including “Putting Leadership Back Into Strategy”, “Mastering the Management System”, “Five Competitive Forces That Shape Strategy” and the compelling “Innovation Killers: How Financial Tools Destroy Your Capacity to Do New Things”. These topics are as common to the non-profit world as the for-profit world.

I have worked with the Balanced Scorecard (BSC) as a tool to identify strategy and successfully link it with operations, enabling an organization to successfully cascade strategy throughout the organization’s operations, using metrics and key initiatives. One of the compelling concepts of the BSC is “balance”—a balanced approach for each organization. Using the BSC, it is even possible to embed strategy in annual performance planning and evaluation for staff and volunteers. “Mastering the Management System” by Kaplan and Norton, the Harvard Business School professors who are the founders and developers of the Balanced Scorecard, is one important read for those looking for ways to better connect strategy with operations.

Here’s an important connection between strategy and operations: “Successful strategy execution has two basic rules: understand the management cycle that links strategy and operations, and know what tools to apply at each stage of the cycle”, write authors, Norton and Kaplan

Want to improve the connections between your strategy and operations? Think about your annual management cycle and how the various elements of your annual cycle can be best integrated with your overall strategy. How can your annual budgeting cycle be linked to your strategy? How can your business planning cycle be linked to your strategy? How can you develop usable metrics and evaluations to assess your operations and the extent to which they support your organization’s strategy?

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Four-Hour Workweek Phenomenon—and How It Can Work for Your Association

by Virgil R. Carter

Tim Ferriss started a mini-revolution and a lot of dreams when he published his groundbreaking book, The Four-Work Week. Suddenly, everyone was talking about how they can work better, not harder.

In my consultancy, I have encountered several forces of opposition to the fundamental tenet of the book—let technology execute the functions that are repetitive and administrative, freeing the senior staff and executives to long-term goals and strategy. What are the barriers?

• Fear of Change—that’s a common one and easy to set aside while more substantial issues are addressed.
• Lack of Funds—Yes, technology is an investment, but it is exactly that, an investment that, if properly selected and implemented, will reap rewards multiple times over in productivity.
• Hesitance to Give Up the Personal Touch—Many clients report “we have a certain number of older members who can’t deal with this” or “We want to be there for our members.” It’s fine to cater to members who have not yet gotten on the bandwagon of technology, but their numbers are declining. Many members prefer to simply register online without the “personal touch”—just get it done, in other words.
• Embracing the “All Things to All Members” Syndrome—How often have we heard “Our society/association/foundation is different,” “We can’t modify our processes to adapt to the technology”

What is frequently lacking is a rigorous evaluation of the opportunities available to the nonprofit from technology adaptation with

Monday, June 13, 2011

What to do About Silos?

Virgil R. Carter

You know silos. According to Wikipedia: “A silo is a structure for storing bulk materials. Silos are used in agriculture to store grain (see grain elevators) or fermented feed known as silage. Silos are more commonly used for bulk storage of grain, coal, cement, carbon black, woodchips, food products and sawdust.”

In non-profit organizations silos tend to result from “vertically” structured organizations where each major business function—education, publications, meetings, etc.—is a stand-alone, fully self-contained business operation.

Silos tend to reflect an inward focus by an organization. That’s because silos tend to focus inwardly on doing the things that those in the silo “like to do”. It frequently doesn’t matter (to those in the silo) if there is a market for their products, or if operations are profitable. And there’s the major issue with silos: silos are often characterized by the interests of the silo taking precedence over the interests of the organization as a whole. Further, it’s not uncommon for there to be strong competition among silos for organizational resources—financial and human. The result? The more silos that an organization has, the more that internal competition may inhibit organizational responsiveness, performance and viability. Am I right on this?

Is there an alternative for improved organizational performance? Here it is folks: market focus! That’s it: market focus.

Market focus means identifying the markets critical to organizational success as the basis for the development and sales of all of an organization’s goods and services. This involves “the voice of the customer”: learning and understanding the customer’s expectations and requirements, delighting customers and building loyalty. This is a far cry from “producing what we like to produce” and trying to get someone to buy it.

This can be a cultural and functional shift for non-profits where volunteers in silos “do what they like to do”. Market focus is an “external view”, as opposed to silo’s “internal view”. Implementing market focus, using the voice of the customer, involves an annual process to assess and guide an organization’s portfolio of goods and services. This means encouraging and supporting innovation for new programs; it means sunsetting some existing programs, in a planned, orderly basis.

Market focus means new opportunities. New opportunities mean new revenues and resources, which will benefit all organizational members and customers. Want to trade your silos for new opportunities? Become market focused!

Monday, June 6, 2011

CEOs and Volunteers

By Virgil R. Carter

Experienced CEOs know that job tenure can be fleeting. CEO tenure is often volatile—a situation that cannot benefit the organization, the CEO or the organization’s members. Why such a situation?
Closer examination often reveals the following: volunteers usually care passionately about the association. Many volunteers are leading figures in their field. While many volunteers are subject-matter experts, many have little leadership experience in the unique setting of nonprofit, volunteer-led organizations.
By comparison, many CEOs spend years expanding their enterprise-wide leadership and management knowledge of nonprofits. Many CEOs actively participate in the broader nonprofit world. Compounding this disparity of knowledge and experience is the fact that roles and responsibilities of volunteer leaders and CEOs often are highly ambiguous. Even where there are written policies, there may be many more unwritten policies actually determining who does what, when, and how. Sound familiar?
What can be done to reduce tension between volunteers and CEOs? One important improvement is forging and maintaining a volunteer-staff partnership built on two categories of activity essential for many non-profit associations:

Mission-driven activities: These activities tend to represent the purpose of the organization. These activities motivate volunteers and are where most want to be active. These activities, which are rightly led and populated by volunteers, may produce few revenues and may be largely subsidized. This financial situation may be coupled with volunteer assertions that association activities shouldn’t produce revenues over expenses, to keep volunteer costs to a minimum. Mission-driven activities are critical. There is nothing wrong with subsidized activities, so long as revenues from other sources are available for the needed subsidies.

Business operations activities: These activities are where most of the positive revenue is created to subsidize mission-driven activities. Because they are profit-and-loss oriented, they must be staff led and managed, since volunteers simply have neither the access nor the time to manage business affairs in the timely and agile manner required. A caution: business activities must be related to the mission, as much as subsidized activities.

Clear roles: Establishing clear roles and accountabilities for these two categories of association activity enables volunteer leaders and CEOs to play to their respective strengths. Such clarity, coupled with good communications, enables effective leadership, improved relationships, and strengthened organizational performance.
Leadership role clarity is an important step to transform tension between volunteer leaders and CEOs into productive partnership. The results—more effective volunteers, stability in CEO tenure, and more successful, enjoyable associations—make the partnership worth everyone’s effort.