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.
Leadership/governance, 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.
Programs/services and products: The programs and services or goods/products we offer are created based on industry best practices and delivered with the good faith of the irreliability to provide the stated benefit to the receiving constituency.
Policies and 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.
Fiscal management: 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.
Revenue generation: We engage in activities, build relationships and represent the organization insuch a manner that financial resources, including adequate cash flow, areperpetually generated and available for the pursuit of our mission.
Target constituencies 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.
Risk management: 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.
External environment: 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.
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