Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Measure of Success

In A Simple Statement: A Guide to Nonprofit Arts Management and Leadership, Jamie Grady writes about measuring success.

Measure Success Against the Mission and Vision
Grady writes about how the mission and vision guide success:

For a nonprofit organization, making a profit is not necessarily the definitive measure of success, nor is an increased budget size or staff. The evaluation of success lies in the mission and vision statements and is particular to that organization. Success may represent an increase in audience, in the number of people served by a particular program, or in artistic quality. Success is also measured by the progress the company has made in fulfilling its vision. Success is measured in the short term by the accomplishments of goals and objectives and how those accomplishments have moved the organization closer to its vision.

Vision is an Image of Success
Grady writes how the vision is an image of success:

Vision statements give the organization and its employees an image of success. Without the need to succeed, people and organizations would never reach their full potential. Reaching the company's full potential is what a vision statement is all about.

Key Take Aways
Here's my key take aways:
  • Measure your success against your mission and vision. Use progress against your vision as a yardstick to measure success.
  • Your vision is an image of success. This is a reminder that your success, begins with the vision.

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Management is Doing Things Right, Leadership is Doing the Right Things

In A Simple Statement: A Guide to Nonprofit Arts Management and Leadership, Jamie Grady writes:

As Peter Drucker once proclained, management is doing things right -- improving operational performance, maximizing revenues, and reducing expenses while increasing artistic production values and audience appreciation. Leadership is doing the right things -- setting organizational priorities and allocating human and fiscal resources to fullfill the organization's vision.

I like this simple distinction between leading and managing.

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Mission Statement

In A Simple Statement: A Guide to Nonprofit Arts Management and Leadership, Jamie Grady writes what he's learned about mission statements over the years.

What Is a Mission Statement
Grady writes:

  • A mission statement is a single sentence or short paragraph that states
    the company's central philosphy, beliefs, values, and principles.
  • It clarifies the work of the organization.
  • It needs to be the single device with which a company measures its success.

Keys to an Effective Mission Statement
Grady writes:

  • It should be recognizable, unique, exciting, and inspiring.
  • It is a simple expression of why the organization was created and what it will accomplish.
  • Individuals who are not familiar with the organization should be able to quickly and accurately understand its purpose by reading the mission statement.
  • Mission statements should be powerful and compelling in order to bring people together to work toward a common goal. A compelling sense of purpose brings people together to achieve great goals.
  • If an organization wants every action to be based upon its mission statement, it should create a statement that can be easily memorized.
  • A mission statement needs to be brief in order for it to be easily placed in the minds of those who need it most - organizations, employees, patrons, donors, and vendors.
  • As with any important declaration, it is vital to allow time for revision and discussion arbout the statement's appropriateness and effectiveness.

Group Process Over Single Person
Grady writes:

The creation of the mission statement can be completed by one person or a core group. Usually the statement will be more effective, powerful, and embraced if it is formed by a small group of people rather than a single person. If the mission statement is developed through a successful group process, each member of that group will have a personal stake in the success of the mission and that of the organization. The more people working toward a focused purpose, and sharing that focus, the greater chance they will have in accomplishing that purpose.
Key Take Aways
  • The biggest thing for me here is that the mission statement acts as a guage for success.
  • I'm a fan of simple, repeatable mission statements over elaborate or verbose ones.
  • I like the point on getting skin in the game by using a group process for the mission statement.
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Additional Resources

Corporate Culture

In A Simple Statement: A Guide to Nonprofit Arts Management and Leadership, Jamie Grady writes:

When discussing corporate values, we naturally think of the term coporate culture. Corporate culture is the culmination of many factors: the type of business the organization is in, the type of artistic discpline it presents, its programs and services, its audience, its size and location, its methods of operating, and its interaction with the public. Even more important are the intangible factors: beliefs, values, and the norms and expectations of the company. Values play a key role in how the organization operates from day-to-day and how it plans for the future.
Personal Values and Organizational Success
Grady writes:

An institution may document its values and beliefs through the use of a
statement of beliefs or artistic statement. Regardless of the title an
organization chooses for its statement, leadership must fully understand the
values that drive the organization and be able to articulate them to
others. Without such a statement, employees have no resource for comparing
their own values and beliefs with those of the company. The closer the
organizational values are to the employee's personal values, the greater the
likelihood that the employee will be successful in the organization.
Key Take Aways

  • I like the distinction between the tangible and intangible factors that make up a corporate culture.
  • It seems obvious in hindsight how important it is that your personal values aren't at conflict with the organization's values. At the same time, I don't think I've ever specifically focused on figuring out an organization's values before taking a job. I have a new tool for evaluating a fit!

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Organizational Values

In A Simple Statement: A Guide to Nonprofit Arts Management and Leadership, Jamie Grady writes the following points on organizational values:

  • Organizational values are abstract ideas that guide organizational thinking and actions.
  • Organization values represent the foundation on which teh company is formed.
  • Defining an organization's unique values is the first and most critical step in its formation and development
  • While difference in opinion and skills may be beneficial to the success of an organization, a unity of purpose must be maintained.
  • In order for the institution to be successful, the values on which the company is built must be appropriate for the time, place, and environment in wich the organization will operate.
  • A company's organizational values let others know what it is, why it has been created, and how it is different from other companies.
How Do You Find Organizationl Values
Grady writes the following point on finding the values:

  • In order to understand and identify the values of an organization and to guage their influence on the company, managers must carefully examine how that organization operates.
  • While it may be helpful to listen to people describe what they believe the values of the organization are, it is far better to observe those people in their day-to-day activities.
  • Note how employees spend their time, how they communicate within the organization and how they go about their daily job responsbibilities and tasks.
  • Although values are often difficult to define, they are usually revealed by employees' actions and thinking, how they set their priorities, and how they allocate their time and energy. An employee's actions are more revealing than their words.
Dimensions to Understand Values
Grady writes the following dimensions help to understand organizational values and how those values drive an organization:

  • Prosocial dimension. Not-for-profit theatres have a responsibility
    to provide community access to thei performances, remove economic and cultural
    barriers to attendance, and educate audiences in theatre arts.
  • Market dimension. Theatres struggle between creating art of art's
    sake and meeting customer needs and expectations. A purely
    market-orientated philosophy is typically the mark of a commercial theatre, with its complete reliance on ticket sales for revenues, but all theater managers recognize the realities of the marketplace.
  • Financial dimension. Althought all theatres must content with the
    reality of financial demands while pursuing creativity and artistic excellence,
    fiscal stability is a particularly high prioritiy for some theatres.
  • Achievement dimension. Public recognition and accliam can affirm
    an organization's creative activity, and some theatres particularly strive for
    external recognition.
  • Artistic dimension. For many theatres, the top priority is
    internally focused creativity, innovation, and artistic dependence.

Key Take Aways

  • I think the reason the values are so important for an organization is because it's really about defining what matters and where people will spend time and energy.
  • Actions are louder than words. I've seen first hand when an organization states one set of values, but operated under another. I don't think it's on purpose. I think it happens when people write their values down without really first observing .
  • I find the dimensions particularly helpful as a way to frame out values in core areas that matter.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Skills for the Road Ahead

In businessThink: Rules for Getting It Right--Now, and No Matter What, the authors write about the skills you need for the future.

Skills You Need for the Future
The authors write:

When Accenture recently interviewed 500 executives around the world and asked "What workforce skills are in most demand and will be the most needed over the next two to five years?" this is how they answered:

  • Business Skills: 68 percent
  • Technical Skills: 42 percent
  • Flexibility and adaptability: 33 percent
  • Self-motivation: 18 percent
  • Leadership: 6 percent
  • Functional: 3 percent

  • Self-Motivated Leader or Flexible, Adaptable Businessperson
    The authors write:

    So the question is, would you like to become a functional, self-motivated leader, or a flexible, adaptable businessperson with great technical skills. People who can independently think on their feet, work cross-functionally, learn new skills quickly, and work to make great business decisions that are customer focused (for both internal and external customers) will be indespensible to their companies and in high market demand. By the way, executives not only said they expect to need these skills shortly, they also expect these skills to be very difficult to come by (good demand news for you in the supply and demand of labor economics -- if you live by the rules).

    Key Take Aways

    • Leadership ranks lower than technical skills. The surprise for me is how low the leadership ranks. I guess you only need so many leaders in comparison to the overall workforce. On the other hand, if you consider influence in its many forms, an aspect of leadership, then I think leadership belongs much higher. Influence is a way to get results more effiiciently and effectively. Put it another way, if you can't influence, you'll have a tough time getting the support you need to get things done.
    • Business skills and technical skills go hand in hand. I'm not surprised that business skills and technical skills are a priority and they go hand in hand. One without the other can be ineffective. If you have business skills, but you don't use today's tools or understand the changing landscapes, you won't be as effective as those that do. Similarly, if you have technical skills, but you can't turn them into business value, you won't be as useful as someone who can.
    • Flexibility and adaptability are key. I'm glad to see flexibility and adaptability explicitly called out. I'm a fan of continuous improvement. I think a big part of today's success is adapting to changes, and finding ways to make the most of new opportunities.

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    Tuesday, July 10, 2007

    Eight Rules of businessThink

    How do you make more effective strategic business decisions?  How can you build more effective business cases?  How can you more effectively analyze business decisions?  How do you figure out what the impact of your decisions will be?  In businessThink: Rules for Getting It Right--Now, and No Matter What!, Dave Marcum, Steve Smith, and Mahan Khalsa have eight rules for more effectively building and analyzing business cases.

    The Eight Rules of businessThink
    According to Marcum, Smith, and Khalsa, the eight rules of businessThink are:

    • Rule 1: Check Your Ego at the Door. Check your ego at the door. Work delicately with the egos of others to keep dialogue open. Change yourself to lead to a change in the business.
    • Rule 2: Create Curiosity. Ask questions and gather perspectives from your company's collective intellectual diversity.3.
    • Rule 3: Move Off the Solution. Get to the underlying business issues. Make sure you're not guessing. Focus your attention on the vital few issues.
    • Rule 4: Get Evidence. Collect the soft evidence to prove that the business problem or opportunity exists. Turn the soft evidence into hard evidence that the business can measure.
    • Rule 5: Calculate the Impact. Convert the hard evidence into a financial equivalent to make sure that there is a worthwhile impact or payoff.
    • Rule 6: Explore the Ripple Effect. Carefully consider who or what else in the company is affected by the problem or opportunity. Consider the relative weight of the importance of the issue compared to other intitiatives in the company.
    • Rule 7: Slow Down for Yellow Lights. Know what has stopped the company from successfully doing something about this before now, or what might stop you in the future. If the impact of a problem or opportunit is big, ask "What has stopped you (or the company as a whole) from successfully resolving these issues before now?" If this is a new opportunity with no history, the yellow-light question is "What, if anything, might prevent the successful implementation of this solution from going forward?"
    • Rule 8: Find the Cause. Identify the cause producing the symptoms that are showing up. Treat the cause of the problem rather than the effects.

    Why businessThink ?
    The authors claims that applying businessThink will help you:

    • Make winning strategic business decisions.
    • Have colleagues trust your judgement and leadership.
    • Leverage and utilize your talents.
    • Become highly influential and relevant.
    • Create business value.

    Key Take Aways
    What I like about businessThink is that it's a distillation of what the authors have put into practice. What I also like about the approach is that it's something you can put into practice yourself (i.e. I don't have any bottlenecks to start using businessThink on the job). The more I apply it, the better I'll get.

    I think creating compelling business cases is a key to effectiveness. Whether you're competing for resources, time, and budget, or simply trying to convince others that your idea has merit, the business case is key. I see some of the best ideas never get put into action because the owner never created a compelling business case. If there's one skill to master for today's competitive landscape, I think it's creating business cases and businessThink is the tool to help you do it.

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    Sunday, July 1, 2007

    Calculating Impact

    In businessThink: Rules for Getting It Right--Now, and No Matter What!, the Dave Marcum, Steve Smith, and Mahan Khalsa use five questions to convert hard evidence into impact.

    The Five Golden Questions
    According to Marcum, Smith, and Khalsa, you can use the following five golden questions to convert evidence into impact:

    • How do you measure it?
    • What is it now?
    • What would you like it to be?
    • What's the value of the difference?
    • What's the value of the difference over time (months, years -- the appropriate management horizon)?

    Key Take Aways
    At work, I tend to ask the questions, "how big is the pie?" and "how big is our slice?" While they're a start, I think The Five Golden Questions above help add dimension and depth when you're trying to understand and articulate potential impact.