Posts Tagged ‘strategic’

Tackling Persistent Myths

March 17, 2012

Our minds create associations very quickly. Great communicators, especially marketers, exploit this to anchor or promote an idea that may or may not be true.

So, beer and car commercials make heavy use of culturally attractive females to help male viewers link “hot” women with cold drinks or costly cars. The sequence in these promotions goes like this: if you buy this beer or car, then you will attract more, better women.

Common Pairs

In our workplace and communities other myths are in play. They can be obstacles for progress. Sometimes it is a matter of intentional marketing and other times it is the big leap to a faulty conclusion. I’ve listed several common myth combinations here:

Access   = Use

Spoken   = Understood

Information = Answers

Busy = Results

Taught = Learned

Bigger = Better

Articulate = Capable

Logical = Practical

Proven = Strategic 

Untangling Myths

Are any of these myths evident in your workplace?

In the list of above, the first and last pairs are ones we hear frequently. However, access use and proven strategic. For example:

When you purchase an office suite of software you get a bundle of programs – many that are never (or rarely) used. At the new year start, when we resolve to get “fit,” we join a gym. But this doesn’t guarantee participation in classes and use of the pool or equipment. In both cases, after access, there are many steps that must happen before use occurs. There is a mental leap from access to use.

Consider the “proven equals strategic” myth. We know a second language is a good idea for children. In fact, second language acquisition is proven to have influence in other cognitive achievements.  However, it may not be the most strategic choice in the context of child well being. Perhaps immunizations, nutritional support or preschool are inaccessible, more valuable and thus more strategic. The point: anything effective isn’t always the best action.

 Obstacles and Progress

Intentionally and unintentionally we pair up concepts that seem to be useful – but are not necessarily true. It’s vital we’re on guard for these pairings. They need to be challenged for validity. Unless your organization (or town) is perfect – myths exist.  Myths can be part of culture which props up the status quo. They can also generate limiting beliefs that get in the way of results.

Dig  a little deeper when you hear (or think) simple, glib associations. To create change we all need to be myth-busters.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com

The Best Combination

February 28, 2011

How can nonprofit organizations best provide responsive charitable services and simultaneously create social change?

A two-part answer helps significantly: improved governance and management. Strength in both these areas is essential to organization performance.

Great Governance
Trustees of nonprofit organizations play a critical role via tenacious, thoughtful leadership that insists on choices which yield measureable progress. Their governance role is specifically designed to review management competencies and associated organizational performance. Their function, in trust, to multiple publics is as a watchguard for the organization’s mission. It could be high quality education, hunger relief, women’s independence or children’s safety. As the “guard,” trustees are not necessarily cozy protectors of staff. Trustees don’t seek self-interest, they seek the common good.

These roles can put volunteers in a tough position. Regardless, their first duty isn’t as social support for each other or staff but to ensure that the community is well-served. This is their principal accountability. They should guide, question, provoke, measure, encourage and demand organization performance. Trustees must be willing to be unpopular in order to tackle tough decisions. It is both necessary and fair for trustees to set explicit, high expectations. As demands on time mount, doing a great job in governance isn’t easy.

Capable Management
When talented management does their work well they lead organization priorities and plans. They interact responsibly with both trustees and their peers in allied organizations. Capable non-profit managers have a long list of critical responsibilities. While surveilling and interpreting the external environment, managers also gather resources, develop staff competencies, communicate effectively, skillfully design and implement appropriate programs for those in need and pursue a change agenda (to erode the conditions that disable people). Some nonprofits provide charitable services, others exist to create social change and some have a mix of both agendas.

The requisite talent for this work include both attributes as well as knowledge and skills. A commitment to transparency, integrity, equity, empathy, learning, candor, others, and passion are all on my must-have list. Professionals believe and act on these values or they don’t. Critical knowledge and skills include a broad repertoire of design, planning, analysis, evaluation, facilitation, applied research, political acuity, policy, change/project management, marketing, communications, coalition–building and distinct subject matter expertise (in education, health, youth, seniors and other areas). Capable management can lead and be team members. They have enough wisdom and experience to coach others.

Strong : Strong
The best combination of governance and management is when both are strong. A strong executive can take advantage of a weak board or engage them in inappropriate roles. Similarly, a weak executive will never deliver what’s needed for an organization to perform. The relative proficiency of the nonprofit sector to process change is an essential, adaptive reflex. It could mean fewer organizations. It should mean a healthy dissatisfaction with the status quo and new ways of working.

We all need talent in both functions that will take strategic, progressive action. The “exempt” reference that precludes tax payments isn’t a free pass at accountability – whether in governance or management.

-Lisa Wyatt Knowlton, Ed. D. is a strategy architect and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. She is also a W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow.Contact her at:lisawk@pwkinc.com.


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