After many years of working with a variety of organizations,
helping them to be all they choose to be, I realize the most valuable service
of an outsider is to ask the “right” questions. For the organization that truly
wants to grow/improve, a well-placed question puts it squarely on the helpful
path of introspection and self-discovery.
In virtually any situation, the simple question, “What is
your goal?” has oftentimes not been considered. Yet the answer to this question
is vital and provides the platform for effective decision making and pursuit of
a course of action.
For the organization that aspires to excellence, I suggest
there are 12 inquiries that quickly identify primary areas of strength and
weakness. These inquiries can be initiated via a self-assessment tool and
process. Even if the organization determines it can benefit from a deeper
investigation, eventually bringing in someone from outside to guide the
discovery process and address problem areas, it is helpful to consider these
questions early in the process.
Here are the 12 inquiries, stated in the positive rather
than in the form of questions. They avoid values-based concepts, including
those considered standard in the nonprofit industry (e.g. diversity), because
the values of a particular organization certainly should be considered in the
self-review process. The list provides the framework for an organization of
excellence. When these activities are pursued with consistency, they combine to
create an organizational culture. Thus, the significant opportunity to
“reinvent” one’s self is ever available.
Mission and Values:
We have a clear, succinct and articulated mission (purpose) and are grounded in
the values that underwrite our work.
Vision and Planning:
We are aware of our intentions for this organization’s future and have
committed to a strategic, realistic plan of action, including a frequent review
of the plan, for getting from where we are today to that future point.
Management and Staffing: We have a governing body that understands its
legal, fiscal and other responsibilities and provides for effective leadership
and proper accountability of the organization, including adherence to
industry-specific best practices for dealing with conflicts of self-interest.
There are sufficient human resources, paid or unpaid, with the necessary skills
to manage and provide for the day-to-day activities of the organization. All
involved individuals are provided with specific performance expectations,
learning opportunities and feedback and are appropriately engaged, supervised,
compensated and acknowledged for their efforts.
Products: The programs and services or goods/products we offer are created
based on industry best practices and delivered with the good faith of their
reliability to provide the stated benefit to the receiving constituency.
Procedures, Systems: Internal systems ensure consistent and ongoing
delivery of programs/services and/or products and provide for the necessary
functions that support this delivery. Our organizational success is reliant on
record keeping and systems and not the perpetual involvement of any particular
person or specific, static group of people.
Tools and Technology:
We effectively utilize tools and technology to ensure sustained management of
the organization as well as program/product delivery and evaluation. We gather
and analyze/utilize meaningful data to guide and inform our decisions and work.
We are responsible stewards of our fiscal resources in compliance with all
legal requirements and accounting industry standards. The organization provides
for timely and accurate budgeting and financial transaction management, recording,
reporting and review. We adhere to built-in internal controls and utilize
prudent fiscal management and investment practices.
We engage in activities, build relationships and represent the organization in
such a manner that financial resources, including adequate cash flow, are
perpetually generated and available for the pursuit of our mission.
and Alliances; Communications: We have clearly identified the target
constituencies who benefit from and/or assist us in doing our work. Our
reputation and image are recognizable and positive; communications with each
stakeholder group, and the members of that group, are as distinct, direct and
effective as resources will allow.
We have conducted a prudent assessment of the organization’s operational,
disaster, crisis and security risks and engage in adequate precautions and
actions at all levels of operation to reduce exposure to and potential effects
of any incident(s) such that the entity or its constituents will come to harm.
Quality Assurance and
Evaluation: Programs, services and/or products/goods are provided with
assurance of quality. Consumer acceptance is tracked and measured for a
successful result, based on data-based review and pre-determined standards for
quality and quantity of output and desired outcomes.
We are mindful of our efforts in the context of a larger world, tracking
changes that occur externally to our work that have consequential impacts on
both short- and long-term strategies and activities. We are vigilant in
adapting and redirecting our course to ensure relevancy, responsiveness and
ultimately, organizational survival.
by Illene Roggensack