Have you ever dreaded the sound of your cell phone ringing, knowing that it brings yet another crisis or question that pushes your organization into confusion? Reactive organizations seem to be very common, especially among underfunded, overworked nonprofits and government agencies. It’s hard to get out front and steer the wagon, when the wagon’s always on fire. Here are five ways to become more proactive in your management style:
- Lighten Your Load – Evaluate your existing programs and services and quit doing something that takes great effort but does not provide much profit or support your mission well.
- Look Back – Review your original master plan or any existing plan documents. Do they contain ideas that were good but not pursued at the time? Add them back in the mix.
- Get Help – Bring in a facilitator to help formulate a strategic plan that includes specific action items. What will you do next, who will oversee the task and when will each task be done? Strategic plans without “next steps” that are easy to pursue often end up as an exercise in frustration instead of the guiding document they were intended to be.
- Measure Progress – Develop a logic model (see the Kellogg Foundation PDF document on this), or a clear set of measurable objectives that inform your action plan. Defining desired results moves vague goals and strategies from theory to practice and provides a way to prove what you’re doing has value.
- Meet Regularly – Report progress toward objectives on a monthly or weekly basis to keep everyone abreast of what’s been accomplished or any changes that might affect results.
We were in Japan visiting colleagues and doing a little training at the Whole Earth Nature School, and found that the entire staff would meet each morning in a standing circle and talk just a few moments about what they were doing that day. Identifying each person’s daily tasks made a clear statement that what everyone does is important to the function of the whole.
Weekly meetings may be enough for most organizations. Keep looking back at the annual operations plan and measurable objectives and report on progress at each meeting. It’s good to have a wall or bulletin board where action plan progress and logic model performance is visibly reported in easy to read ways. It can be put up on a visual dashboard or as a virtual dashboard on an intranet site where staff can check it even if working from home or a distant office.
Finding the money to bring in a facilitator or planner can be a challenge, but it’s usually money well spent. Government agencies sometimes have year-end money and spending it on a plan may be more useful than buying more things to put on the ground. Nonprofits often find that local foundations will help them with financing a plan if the effort will make the organization more sustainable and less likely to need emergency help in reaction to crisis management. Even if you employ a planner on staff, an outside facilitator can help focus the group’s efforts and keep discussions moving forward. But whether you choose to develop your plan in-house or by hiring outside help, make sure your planner or facilitator knows how to help you develop measurable objectives and a clear action plan.
Being proactive instead of reactive keeps you on a more efficient path towards achieving your organization’s goals. With the start of the New Year, it’s a good time to think about how you can adopt and implement more proactive strategies. If you need help, let us know.
Best wishes for a very HAPPY and PRODUCTIVE NEW YEAR!
– Tim Merriman