Class notes - week fifteen, Spring 2018

I’m trying to tell myself to write like the deadline is tomorrow, so that when the deadline comes I don’t have to really push it then.

Table of contents

So, it’s crunch time. My final paper for MGNPO is due this coming Thursday and my final paper for IDSC is due the following Monday. The latter is particularly exciting, being that the subject is how IT can add value to an organization. To articulate that I’m writing a business case study for how IT has been managed, an assessment of that management (reflected against and compared to course learnings), followed by recommendations for how it should evolve. For the latter part, I’m trying to incorporate learnings from the book on leadership transitions that I read for the other final paper, was well as generally some learnings from that class specific to nonprofit management. And I’m hopeful that the recommendations which come from that paper will be things that I can actually put into practice over the next couple years. So that’s where my head’s at right now and what I want to be working toward. In my linear fashion though, need to do things in order. Catch up my class notes and reading summaries, write the MGNPO paper, then write the IDSC paper. On to the next step now…

Notes from IDSC

I didn’t take many notes in this class. The subject was on social media and data and it got into topics of data privacy and ethical boundaries for manipulation. Issues I follow closely and have strong opinions about, which honestly made it difficult to keep my mouth shut about. Think I might have annoyed the professor at a point with that, which all I can say it just is what it was

  • The future comes to you one day at a time. You’re not going to feel very different from yesterday, but over time you change.
  • About the class final paper
    • Meetings like are being setup for the final project give you an idea of what that person’s day-to-day job feels like and what their vision for their area looks like
    • A lot of what makes people mentally suited to moving up are those interactions and showing qualities which demonstrate you belong at that next level
  • Contagion is the sense that you get it from a person who has it
  • Network effect - classic example was the telephone, became more valuable as market penetration increased
  • Knowledge about social media and how to use data to create customer value is still in its infancy, but the potential is there for this to be a key for future value creation and an extraordinarily valuable skill to have

Notes from MGNPO

  • Change and reluctance to change is a pretty universal challenge
  • Take a class in change management if you can
  • Tell people why change is important
  • Try to create a culture of continual improvement. Build in the concept that we’re not standing still and never going to stay the same
  • Sometimes when you have a real disruption, like a loss of a grant or leadership turnover, there’s a pause. You can’t avoid it, it’s going to happen. This is a different type of change to deal with
  • Try to co-create while you’re making a change. Foster buy in
  • Sometimes you, as the person driving the change, can’t be the voice for change (hooboy, do I know this one)
    • Consultants are an outside voice who can sometimes better deliver the message
    • Board members can be helpful for articulating why to make that case
  • You want to listen to the resistors - what they’re telling you is important
    • Part of leadership is not so much giving out information as it is listening. Resistors will inform you about things that haven’t been fully thought out or may have unintended consequences
  • Question about when change triggers an emotional response - hard to have in a group setting, keep focus on the issue. “Why does this upset you?” rather than “Why are you upset?”
  • Understand that it’s not about age - there are people who take well and not well to change in all generations. But like all diversity, it makes us richer.
  • If your organization is disparate, you need to over-communicate to ensure that messages are understood by everyone.
  • Ambiguity isn’t always bad. What if scenarios, helps you think through issues.
  • Leadership personalities are different from leadership techniques
  • Leaders form more questions than they give out answers. Framing the right question helps get to the solution
  • If you go behind every leader, there’s a team that got them there. Leadership is a shared sport
  • Remember that the organization is going through a life cycle of its own, just as the people within it are
  • Constant change is a dynamic
  • If leaders are insecure, they don’t seek the answers from their staff. Importance of leadership groups, to have peers to talk through some really difficult issues with.
  • Poor performing boards are a tough challenge. They must discipline themselves, you can’t as ED enforce their rules. You can nudge the board chair to take action, but it’s on them to do so.
  • Can frame it for a board member, rather than heavy handed reminders of the bylaw requirements, encourage them to consider if this volunteer experience is right for them at this point in their life. Some will step it up and improve, others will agree and step down (and ideally remain as a donor)
  • There are ways of communicating tough messages that do not alienate people and keep them as allies
  • Lesson from HR - often times when you have to do corrective discipline, talk about the incident and not the character of the person. It’s not about blaming and shaming.
  • Can’t let social status issues get in the way of addressing issues on the board
  • If you want to be a high performing organization, you want the best talent possible around you and that includes board members
  • Absentee board members aren’t helping your organization
  • Managing the board means manage what their functions are, not manage their behavior. Function management is a staff function. Behavior management is a board function.
  • Positional power versus leadership - understand that title doesn’t always mean that’s the person people will go to when they need to know something or get something done.
    • Don’t try to take that power away, it’s good for the organization. Different story if they abuse their power to circumvent something.
    • Who are some of those natural positions for power or influence in your organization? Sometimes it’s the people you would least expect
  • There’s a lot of communication and dialogue that needs to happen in an organization. Can’t happen via email or by the procedure book. Idea of managing by wandering around. Helps take the pulse of the organization and gather input to get the priorities right
  • It sounds trite, but every single decision should come back to how it supports the mission.
  • If you lose sight of the mission, you become just like any other commercial enterprise
  • Boards change, people change, missions change
  • Mission also gives you a sense of the reality, what you’re trying to work on now in an ever-changing world. Mission anchors an organization and inspires a sense of what is possible.
  • The in-between area getting from mission to vision (what you stand for versus how the world will look when you’re successful) is where you live in your day-to-day work
  • We need to be mindful of what is the exit strategy - at what point, when we’ve met our mission and realized our vision, do we wind down operations or shift the mission to take on something new?
  • What is our mindset for growth and change? Not our tactics, but our mindset .. the generative questions we ask, the approach we take.
  • Impact measures are what your funders and stakeholders will ask you about
  • Strategy helps you set direction, integrate resources, and implement
  • Balance of strategy and structure - can be difficult to work with, especially when it means changing staff roles and resulting staff development or turnover
  • There’s always a tension between current operations and where you’re moving to in the future. People need to work on the now and on the future at the same time
  • Having insight and courage means that you need to continually learn, and inspiration can come from unexpected places
  • Dilemma and challenge is that we’re asked for evaluation, but lag in terms of experience and sophistication of measurement tools
  • Your organizational culture doesn’t stay static, it changes along with the organization over time
Written on April 29, 2018