Thursday, March 22, 2007
I find I read a lot of books.
Perhaps I read because I've learned that someone, somewhere has likely written down some instructions I may need at some time. Abraham Lincoln supposedly said, "Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren't very new after all."
Or perhaps I read books because I travel so much and I'm embarrassed to be seen with People Magazine!
I've been reading a few good titles on Nonprofits and Nonprofit Board Management. Recently I finished a good book on "Governance as Leadership", by Chait, Ryan and Taylor, published by Board Source (available on our website as well). I immediately liked the book because it dismissed the oft-told theory that there is a one-size-fits all to board governance. Don't you believe it. Running a nonprofit is hard work, regardless if you are the Executive Director or a member of the board.
The authors get into the idea of Strategic Planning and have a great section on what they call, "Strategic Disillusionment". In brief, they make the comment that while many boards have attempted to embrace a formal strategic plan, typically the formal document is neither "strategic" nor a "plan".
I don't have time to address all of their issues but I did nod in agreement when I read about the first of six related problems with nonprofit strategies for the 21st Century: Often Boards create Plans without traction.
In reality, strategic plans are supposed to detail how an organization is to move from the current situation to a preferred state. However, most nonprofits typically create the vision of the preferred state without much attention to the road that will be required to be traveled in order to arrive at the preferred state. In essence, "the blue-sky quality of these plans overshadows down-to-earth considerations --the practical yet crucial daily routines that must change to realize a new vision."
When I was in the business world, I believed in the 90-10 rule. I think I was somewhat infamous for the 90-10 rule. In essence my 90-10 rule said that if you could accomplish 90% of what you wanted to accomplish with only 10% of the effort, go with it.
We recognize that the 90-10 approach may not work for those that are involved with airline or other product safety issues. It, however, usually is a good approach for tactically involving people, products, services and events and likely a good tactic for a nonprofit.
I believe that all too often, nonprofit boards and their senior leadership teams embrace strategies that may appear to identify the preferred state-of-affairs. Often these plans need a strong dose of pragmatism and realism regarding the road and the steps that they need to take to get them to where they would prefer to be.
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