Planning and execution at very small non profits

The Program Director at OregonActive seems like he lives in a world of constant problem solving. Aside from his grass roots level deployment of the organization’s mission, OregonActive has 3 members, in addition to their board. They might be described as ‘very efficient’ as much of the organizations planning is done through conversations. Contrasted to Fruit and Flower, this group is much more loose in how they get their projects done.

As we know from our lean experience, strategic deployment works well when the projects selected fall under an umbrella goal of the organization. Both the mission level and the project level goals and tactics fit within a Plan-Do-Check-Act learning cycle and are typically represented on a one page paper for clarity and communication purposes. At OregonActive, I see that this could be useful, even with the tightly coupled and small staff. The benefits, I suppose, would be in making data based decisions and in clarity of purpose. I suspect there would be another benefit with the philosophy by early identification of roadblocks.

In summary, small organizations (less than 5 members), as well as larger (20+) non-profits would benefit from adopting lean strategic deployment.

Strategic Planning at the Non-profit Board Level

Strategic planning and deployment encompasses all aspects of operations and improvements. Dennis Pascel outlined Strategic Deployment (Hoshin Kanri) in Getting the Right Things Done.

Improvement projects are selected from top-down mission driven or bottom up needs based. The problem solving process and a visual cascading connection between projects characterize lean strategic deployment. As does balancing operational resources with improvement resources.

Non-profits and bigger, private firms where lean grew up, are considerably different. However, there are a number of habits that would be useful.

“We’re lucky at Fruit and Flower to have such a wonderful Executive Director.” Says Jenny Turner, president of the board at Fruit and Flower (F&F), a local non-profit child care provider. It’s with the guidance and experience of the Executive Director (ED) that much of the improvement projects have been selected.

At F&F, about half of the energy put into strategic planning is along the lines of the mission statement for the organization. Along those lines the organization is working to improve teaching ability and in house child development expertise. The other half or so strategic thinking opportunities that are identified are based on needs, many of which are facilities based.

The interesting thing around both, but particularly the facilitates improvements, is the ongoing issue of fundraising. Capital projects selected are heavily weighted for direct influence on the people that are funding the organization. For example, F&F recently raised money and installed a new playground. Now they are choosing to paint the lobby.

Operationally, it is the acting COO that provides insight to the treasurer who works on the executive committee. Coupled with recommendations and research done by the ED, budget is allocated annually and measured at the board level.

It’s the ED who comes to the table with what the needs are, alternatives and perspective. Under her recent guidance the organization put in place the Early Childhood/Infant and Toddlers Environmental Rating Scale (ECERS and ITERS) system of measuring child performance. Now a parent can see how their baby has progressed compared to a modern baseline and it provides insight for other environmental opportunities for improvement.

How can we help? As discussed in September 2010s organizing conference call, a strategic planning educational workshop session could help disseminate the tools that are currently being used by only the top of the organization. Imagine if the staff of F&F work to build a culture within the organization where each individual could use a problem solving framework (A3) to identify a needs gap and build a plan. The culture already has a culture based on consensus. It would seem fairly easy to adapt this into a powerful group of problem solvers. That is, as long as operational goals are considered first.

My next interview is with an Executive Director of a non-profit that raises money to provide fun experiences for children that have life threatening medical conditions. Let’s see what another organization does and how lean strategic deployment might help. Stay tuned…

Strategic Planning for Non-profits

Today is my first ‘gemba’ walk in the effort to co-design a workshop to educate non-profits in strategic planning. This is part of LeanPDX’s goals for 2011, as described in our recent conference call. I’ll be meeting with an astounding individual who is on the board of 2 non-profits. The questions that I’ll have are about the major factors that influence how the group performs strategic planning and any frameworks that are used.

I expect the conversation to be rather fluid and open. Who knows what I’ll find. A quick online search did uncover quite a few structured approaches… although non of them using what we might call a lean framework. But a lot of stuff from B-school. We’ll see what happens. I expect they are rather on top of things. Both because the organizations are well established and we are in a hot spot of social services (in my opinion). Will report soon.