Thursday, December 28, 2006

Network-Centric Leadership

It's that lovely quiet week between Christmas and New Years. A great time to re-organize the office and catch up on the pile marked "READ ME!" over there in the corner.

Here's the March 2006 issue of Associations Now that frequently has some good articles in it. This issue includes an article about what it takes to be a leader in a network centric world:

  1. high tolerance for ambiguity
  2. comfort with chaos
  3. a relaxed, friendly demeanor
  4. able to focus on policy and getting people to work together
  5. encourages support staff and volunteers to act like administrators, like an owner of the community, its standards and purpose
  6. starts with an ennobling purpose
  7. establishes a democratic community where individuals are equals
  8. enable all participants in the organization to contribute; uses structure and [management] only to honor the community purpose
  9. assumes good intentions
  10. supports learners and a learning culture
  11. remembers that communities (including of staff) are social entities
  12. implements a a decision making process that is less gureaucratic, more open and flexible
  13. values good data about constituents / target audience
  14. throws out any old assumptions that all constituent interactions must be controlled from headquarters

Friday, February 10, 2006

Organizational Effectiveness Meets Network-Centricism

In my various house-cleaning, and re-reading, and placing what I know in this new context of GEO, I (re)came across "More Theses on Nonprofit Organizational Effectiveness" by the folks at ARNOVA.

Their key theses are good reminders to be a bit more circumspect in our thinking about "organizational effectiveness" and the ever problematic "best practices," but I was particularly caught by their last key thesis:

8. Since many NPOs operate as part of a network of service delivery, we need to start thinking more in terms of network effectiveness. [my emphasis]
When an NPO operates as part of a larger network to deliver services, it is less relevant to assess individual NPO effectiveness than that of the entire set of organizations working together. Emphasis on the effectiveness of such NPOs as though separate and distinct can lead an observer to invalid conclusions.

(I wish I'd seen this while writing Power to the Edges: Trends and Opportunities in Online Civic Engagement.)

I would love to find a group of funders who are interested in both organizational effectiveness and network-centric advocacy to examine what this means for the future of grantmaking and support in the nonprofit sector.

More Data Supporting Integrated Support

Part of my orientation for my new job at Grantmakers for Effective Organizations has included reading a tremendous amount of literature about organizational effectiveness. For example, I've just finished reading a December 2002 evaluation study conducted for the William Penn Foundation by TCC Group (formerly The Conservation Company).

Among other things, TCC sought to document the state of capacity building and the indicators of improved capacity for nonprofits. Here are highlights that I particularly want to stress:

  • Most technical assistance providers can improve by [italics indicate MY emphasis]:

    • providing more integrated approaches
    • ensuring that consulting services don't leave at the end of the contract
    • effectively evaluating the impact of their own work
    • improving "capacity-specific" assistance (e.g., technology) by taking a more holistic (organization-wide) approach to the intervention for the grantees
    • having both process skills and content knowledge
    • integrating any capacity building intervention into the functioning of the entire organization; and

      last but by far not least:
    • "Specialized" consultants (e.g., technology consultants, etc.) must fully understand the culture and mission of the organization.

  • Effective strategies on the part of funders for supporting capacity building include (among other things):

    • addressing specific and clear capacity building goals for individual nonprofit leaders, nonprofits organizations, and/or a particular community or sector of nonprofits.
    • maintaining a careful balance between insisting that nonprofits need capacity building and allowing nonprofit organizations to draw their own conclusions regarding their c.b. needs.
    • identifying what a nonprofits needs are, rather than impose a specific type of capacity building.

In addition, the study found:

  • The most effective capacity building strategy was determined to be PEER LEARNING. Characteristics of effective peer learning included:

    • convening leaders who share something in common
    • trust building exercises to ensure group members feel comfortable sharing challenges
    • flexibility with respect to agenda, purpose, gaols and objective sof the process
    • participants engaging as both learners and teachers with one another
    • the same group of individuals is engaged with the same facilitator on an ongoing basis
    • plenty of networking and informal sharing

  • Top future capacity needs were (in this order):

    1. resource development / fundraising
    2. board development / governance
    3. marketing
    4. information technology systems
    5. evaluation
    6. strategic planning
    7. organizational assessment
    8. leadership development

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Change or Die: Implications for Trainers and Consultants

On a professional listserv I subscribe to, I recently learned of a May 2005 Fast Company article by Alan Deutschman entitled: Change or Die.

When I have offered a workshop or facilitated an organizational development intervention with a client, change is absolutely a desired outcome. Whether a workshop or an intervention, the goal is to develop and support a new behavior that improves or increases organizational or individual performance/effectiveness.

What's powerful about the Fast Company article is that it's telling us that we cannot assume that change will occur just because we convey information, even if that information makes it painfully clear that without change, one will die (or its business equivalent).

The following bulleted items are the characteristics the author felt need to be in place for change to occur. The conversation I would like to have here is how do we as trainers or consultants incorporate or adopt these characteristics in our work with clients? (In my new position at Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, we are engaging grantmakers in how to change their way of doing business in order to be more effective grantmakers.)

Here are the characteristics the author said need to be in place for change to result from learning:

  • Speak to people's feelings, describing problems/solutions in ways that influence emotions, not just thought;
  • Recast / reframe the reasons for change away from something frightening to think about (in this case, death) to a new vision for living. "Joy is a more powerful motivator than fear." [I thought this shed some additional light on why the practice of Appreciative Inquiry has been gaining in popularity-- it focuses on the positive, not the negative.]
  • The story must be simple, easy to identify with, emotionally resonate, and evocative of positive experiences.
  • Radical, sweeping, comprehensive changes are often easier for people than small, incremental ones. [This one surprised me the most.]
  • Identify, achieve and celebrate quick, positive results for the vital emotional lifts they provide; "without sufficient wins that are visible, timely, unambiguous, and meaningful to others, change efforts invariably run into serious problems."
  • Support the change; give support where needed.
  • Grease the brain's machinery for learning by having employees engage in "mental rejuvination" activities from learning a new language or musical instrument to spending a day a week working at a different function in their job!

Missing from this list is Peter Hunter's point that
conditions of ownership also need to be present in order for change to happen.

So how do you design your workshops or consulting interventions such that they will result in CHANGE?