Monday, September 26, 2011

Are You and Your Organization Looking for Growth?

by Virgil R. Carter
Are you and your non-profit organization looking for growth opportunities?  Are you considering globalization?  A recent article “Drawing a new road map for growth”, by Sumit Dora, Sven Smit and Patrick Viguerie, published in the McKinsey Quarterly, reports on findings showing how large and small for-profit companies grow.  Are there some lessons here for non-profit organizations?

Finding 1:  Multiple avenues to growth produces better results in good times and bad.
Organizational growth has three traditional drivers, according to the authors.  These are:  1) portfolio momentum, or the market growth of the segments in an organization’s portfolio; 2) mergers and acquisitions; and 3) market share gains.  The authors cite their study showing that organizations outperforming their peers on two or three of these drivers grow faster and achieve better returns than organizations that outperform on just one driver.  Organizations that fared better in the economic downturn grew in multiple ways.

Finding 2:  Organizations in emerging market economies grow faster than those in developed economies.
Organizations in the study from emerging markets are outgrowing competitors from developed markets at a “startling pace”.  The wide gap in growth between emerging economy organizations and organizations in developed economies “suggests that companies should ask themselves whether they are paying enough attention to emerging markets and allocating sufficient financial and human resources to them.  Chances are the answer is no”.

Finding 3:  Smaller companies rely on market share growth and momentum for growth.
Small companies in the author’s study are growing by increasing their market share “to a much greater extent than large companies”.   Smaller companies, without the significant share positions in mature markets, usually grow faster than their parent industry or profession, according to the authors, because they “are not constrained by size, and their growth is often based on a new business model they can pursue without fear of cannibalizing revenues.”

Friday, September 16, 2011

Is Your Organization Using Too Much Strategy?

by Virgil R. Carter
The strategic plan for many non-profit organizations is an extensive, all-encompassing document.  Such strategy espouses politically correct multitudes of competitive demands and interests from across the organization.    “Too much strategy” focuses on the process and nomenclature of broad goals, objectives, vision and values.  As a result, more often than not the strategy goes up on the shelf and organizational life goes on.

In an article, “The perils of bad strategy”, author and UCLA management professor Richard Rumell, describes the importance of seeing bad strategy and countering it with good strategy.  Too much strategy, or bad strategy, has four characteristics, according to Rumell:

·         The failure to face the challenge;
·         Mistaking goals for strategy;
·         Bad strategic objectives
·         Fluff

When is there too much (bad) strategy?  Rumell says it’s because:  1) the inability to focus and make choices; 2) template-style planning, using the formula of “vision, mission, values, and strategies”.

How to focus your organization on good, productive and useful strategy:  focus on what’s important!  There are three elements for focused, useful strategy:

·         Diagnosis:  identifying the critical aspects of the situation;
·         Guiding policy:  an approach that will overcome the challenges in the diagnosis;
·         Focused actions:  coordinated steps to achieve the guiding policy

Does your organizational strategy focus on the crucial factors for your organization and a direction for addressing the factors?  Or do you have too much strategy?

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Comma

By Jane M. La Barbera, CAE
Managing Director, Association of American Law Schools

During a particularly rough period of months when an individual was conducting a daily campaign against us because he did not like an action that the association was taking, I received a call from a former President of the Association, now a President of a university. He asked me how I was doing and I told him the candid truth.   His response was that it was all about the “comma.”  It was something his insightful son had expressed to him. 

The university president had only been his job three weeks when he was being criticized for a particular issue that had occurred long before he arrived. His son commented that the comma adds to your name a designation that you represent an institution including all its history before and during the time that you are in the position.  Your name alone means little to the outside world. The comma gives you wonderful experiences and it also allows others to critically assess your work and that of the association.

Think of the people you have met and the places you have been because of your position; e.g., talking to Toni Morrison, the Nobel Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winning author; being a guest at the exquisite US consulate on the Arno in Florence on a sparkling beautiful evening; and meeting the Australian Governor General at her grand estate in Canberra.  For the same reasons that you have access to people and places that you would not normally have without the comma after your name, you are celebrated and assessed based on the association that you represent.

What does all this mean?  The comma reminds us that we are ordinary individuals who find ourselves with the privilege of representing institutions.   It means that while our members may express their unhappiness with us, they can also be overly complimentary because we can impact the trajectory of careers. We remind ourselves to take the compliments and the critical comments with a grain of salt.  Would we be treated the same if we did not have the comma?  No, we would not.

On the other hand, we are at risk for our jobs for making decisions that can make us appear brilliant or idiotic.  It is the risk of decision-making, which makes failure and success only separated by a thread of difference. The comma gives us great privilege; and it gives us a richer, but, riskier life. It reminds us of the importance of humility because but for that comma, we would not be seen as representing this important institution in both its failings and in its honors.

Friday, September 2, 2011

May We Have a Little Passion With That?

by Steven Worth

When I was a young person working in the US Senate I recall being puzzled by the clinical, intellectual approach of some orators who would lay out their position on a particular subject in a very matter of fact way, and then respond in the same manner should any objection be raised by someone in the opposition. Many times these were very smart, honest, and thoughtful public servants whose arguments made all the sense in the world to me—but there was just no spark there to drive the point home or to give pause to anyone who would oppose them.

Was this lack of passion the result of weariness, of having fought the battle too long to expect anything positive to come of it? Or was it due to the sheer intellectual self-confidence of a person who knows that common sense will carry the day eventually?

In this vein, Winston Churchill famously noted that “One can always count on the Americans to do the right thing….after they have tried everything else…” Perhaps Churchill was only humorously echoing the optimism in President Lincoln’s own observation that “You can fool, some of the people all the time and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

Somehow I do not feel quite so sanguine that reason will always prevail. In fact I feel more in sympathy with William Butler Yeats’ worried observation that “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

I know, I know, the last thing we need is more arm waving demagogues; but how can one feel inspired to follow, if our leaders do not back their words with a passion that underscores their belief in what they are saying?