One more month of summer for many – so now is the time to get your ministry off to a great start this fall by discussing these items with your team.
Working with faith based organizations over the last few years just about all of them understand that to achieve the level of effectiveness they are called to achieve, they must get a handle on the fast pace of change. As one leader shared with me, “If I had to be honest I would say that I woke up one day last year and everything changed. For the life of me I cannot get my arms and head around this new way of doing ministry. I understand what was needed in the past, I built a great ministry, but today everything has changed from how people operate to how we raise the funding.”
My top 3 key factors that contribute to succeeding in this fast passed culture are…
1. Unity of Vision – today more than ever this is a huge deal. I believe it has always been a huge deal but today the stakes are even higher. One of the main problems today is not the lack of desire, but lack of alignment to the organization’s vision. What are we really doing? Teams succeed only when there is clarity around a vision, it is that simple! No matter how much talent or potential there is on the team if there is not clarity of vision you will not hit the target.
Let me repeat this – having clarity of vision is KEY, if your team is not sure what your organization’s purpose is, then they do not know what to do and cannot clearly buy into what you’re doing. The result over time is people will wander off with their own vision of what the organization does. Others will waste resources, and a few will measure what they are doing and call it successful even if it is not. All three of these results are not the people’s fault – each one of these is the leader’s fault. Every leader has the privilege and the responsibility to measure everything. The real question is what do we measure against. All measurements at some point tie back to the vision and should be measured by the vision. Does what this person is doing align with the vision? Vision is the filter that we measure the effectiveness of our organization.
Clarity of vision does not mean a lack of diversity on the team. Just the opposite is true; you still need a diversity of skills to pull off the vision. Every organization requires diverse talents to succeed but in that diversity there has to be clarity of vision.
Donors or as I prefer to call them, participants look for this match between vision and outcomes. If the donor does not see with 20/20 clarity the match between vision and outcomes then they will not participate at a significant level in your organization. The younger they are the stronger this is. Want to build your donor/participant base? Build strong outcomes that clearly and honestly match your vision. It really is that easy.
Here is my personal concern, if you have been leading for any length of time you believe you know what your organization’s vision is, after all in most cases you came up with it. However, does the rest of the team breath it? Are you sure? The leader has to be selling the vision everyday, throughout the day. My guess is most leaders do not do this, the proof is very clear. When selling vision clearly you will say no to a lot of great things. The huge positive is when you sell vision clearly you will also be redefining your meaning of progress & accomplishment constantly.
One more reason I believe this is so hard for people is almost everyone wants to avoid conflict, and leaders more times than not resist clarity of vision because they want to avoid conflict. What they fail to realize is that clarity of vision will avoid conflict and enhances everything the organizations does.
Keep in mind that the team members who have been on your team the longest will loose clarity of vision quicker than the newer ones. The principle is this: “familiarity breeds blurred vision.”
2. Drop your business plan! Every non-profit organization had or has a business plan whether they know it or not. Think about this however, the pace of change has accelerated to the point where a business plan is no longer enough to plot the completion of your organization’s vision into the future with any certainty. Disruptive people, people, new and updated technologies, unexpected problems, world economics, world political actions etc. can come along and displace or challenge your organization overnight. How do you position your organization and keep it focused and moving forward in this fast paced environment of change?
Let me suggest that you disregard your business plan, which is likely to become forgotten or already obsolete and move to a business map. This is not a word gimmick, but a reality that will help you close the gap between where you are and where you need to be. A map lets you adjust and chart a course to the next destination. It helps you adjust to the times you are traveling through.
To create an effective business map, you have to first ask yourself 4 key questions. 1. “What business am I in?” 2. “What am I really doing?” 3. “Where is this going?” The last question is one that will take complete honesty and candor; 4. “How is business?” All of these questions and the answers will give you a map for the next part of the journey. Not a plan for life.
Once you ask and answer these 4 questions, then drill a little deeper. For instance, what business is Starbucks in? Most people would say the coffee business. But read Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz book and you will find out about his trip to Italy, where he saw people eagerly meeting in cafes before and after work. He saw the promise of a transitional meeting place between home and work. That was the seed that grew into a worldwide chain called Starbucks. He knew his business was about creating an experience, not just delivering coffee.
In the non-profit I helped start, Heart for Lebanon, we have as one initiative that helps Iraqi and Syrian refugees. But we are not in the refugee business. We are in the building relationship business. Building relationships so that people begin to have dignity. Dignity is the game changer! It all starts with a relationship, helping people grow to a point where they leave dependency and become self-sufficient. This keeps us changing, relevant, exciting and measurable.
How is this useful? Back in the early 1900s, if railroad companies in the U.S. realized that they were really in the transportation business, not the railroad business, they could have prevented the entire industry from going bankrupt as the trucking industry took over.
What are you really here for as an organization? If you are a faith-based organization the question and the answers are more strategic then you can imagine. Having a business map really means framing your organization in terms that enable you to see opportunities (and threats) that you might otherwise overlook. Knowing what business you’re really in means having a deep and thorough understanding of your customer and the value they gain from you.
Once you really understand how to consistently offer more value than anyone else in your market, you’re in a better position to identify where you are now, and what it will take to get to where you want to be. You’ll have more certainty about what your business needs to grow now, and you’ll be better able to steer your organization in accordance with that vision. A system of constant strategic innovation is the ultimate advantage. Then year after year as you look back you will see how your organization is transforming for the better.
Let me also say that once a business map is generated then look at your “core values” and ditch them. Ask this question, what behaviors must we, as a team has that will allow us to uphold this business map? Have the whole teamwork on this. Then once you come up with a few (no more than 5 or 6) add a question to each one that the team member can answer daily.
3. Lastly let me mention that in today’s world you cannot do it all and should not do it all. This is a good thing – embrace it. Some things are great, but just not for your organization. There are other things you should not do because someone else can or is doing it – in many cases better. The key to succeed today is that every organization must make use of partnerships. If for no other reason than economics demand us to do so, even in hiring people.
The idea of people (organizations) working together to achieve something they should not do alone goes back as far as there are historical records. God designed us to live as he does, in unity – working partnership. Just think on this one point for a while, Jesus sits in heaven and says, I would not have done it that way but they got it done. Or wow, that was a long way around to get that job done. What about this, will _________ partner be with me on this? God partners with His people to get the work done, but you do not see Him micro-managing the details, but you know He is with you. He gives us strength, He gives us all the help we ask for. This is the best example and definition of partnerships.
Before we go any further, let me define some words that need to be redefined in our “partnership” culture today.
Networking – Here is a working definition of networks: Any group of individuals or organizations sharing a common interest, that regularly communicates with each other to enhance their own individual or organizational purposes.Networks generally are designed to facilitate ongoing communication and information sharing; helping members of the network do their own individual work more effectively. The only real points of connection may be a common area of concern and regular communication.
Collaboration is not partnership either! In collaboration two organizations of people work side by side collaborating with each other as they together move toward accomplishing their own goal. Most of what is called partnership in my experience today is really collaboration.
True Partnership, however has a definition that goes like this … Any group of individuals or organizations, sharing a common interest, who regularly communicate together but work alone to achieve a common vision beyond the capacity of any one of the individual partners can accomplish.
In order to take your organization to a higher level, you will need to first define what the word partnership means to your organization. Second, leverage the power of partnership. Partnerships can also and must happen within different departments inside an organization or outside, between two separate organizations that share a common goal. Effective partnerships produce synergy – energy coming from blended sources. It is a synthesis of strengths that produces more than the mere addition of the parts.
Partnerships will allow your organization multiply your work. I work here, you work over here and together we will double the impact of each of us. When we work on a common goal but separately we are not working in addition but with multiplication and the results are profound:
Illustration; This is right, 4 + 4 = 8; but this is best, 4 x 4 = 16
In short, partnerships multiply vision, wisdom, energy and resources. Consider what could happen if you no longer held onto the control of one or more of your organization’s project? Rather you invited the strengths of others to join you in the process. What if you joined with other organizations to produce more fruit for God’s Kingdom than what you could produce alone? What if your ministry was about something more than you? What would the world see if we dropped our logos and just did the deal together? Unfortunately, the power of partnership is rarely seen. It is easier to talk about partnerships than to practice it. Only trust will allow for effective partnerships.
These 3 points are key in my option if your non-profit organization is going to move forward.
To discuss this more just email me @ Tom@VerticalHorizonsGroup.com