Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Your Strategic Plan is Useless

Those are the words of Dwight D. Eisenhower, a five-star general in the United States Army and the 34th President of the United States.

“Argh!,” you might be screaming, “are you telling me that my organization’s strategic plan is useless? Not to mention our marketing plans and other plans? Did we waste a lot of time and money on something worthless?” Despair not! Let’s take a closer look at what is going on.

“Plan” is a noun.

Eisenhower is saying that plans (i.e., a noun, a thing) is useless. You know what? That makes a lot of sense. Nine times out ten, it seems, the plan is little more than a written document (i.e., a "thing) that gets put aside:

“Planning” is a verb

How can you convert a useless plan into something worthwhile? How can you put it to work? Let’s go back to what General Eisenhower had to say about plans. Here is the complete sentence:
Ah, what a difference a verb makes!” Notice the emphasis on the verb, on action! In other words, the situation isn't so hopeless!  You can take your written plan and actually do something with it: here is a step-by-by process you can use to engage staff and volunteers:

Begin by asking staff and volunteers how much they understand about the plan.

Find out what questions and concerns they have about the plan.

Make your best case for how the plan will make a
meaningful difference in the lives of your members.

Make sure you get a reality check about the feasibility
of the plan by asking about implementation issues.

Find out where your staff and volunteers stand.
Are they ready to support the plan? If not, find out why!


Put the emphasis on action! Ask staff and volunteers,
"how do we hit the ground running with this?"

So, what's happening with your strategic plan? Isn't time to put it to work?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Six Rules to Prevent the Torture of Volunteers

In my previous post I implored the reader to "quit torturing your volunteers." Today I will offer six rules that can help prevent this from happening.

1. Make it rewarding in their terms: Start by asking, “What’s in it for the Volunteer (WIIFTVs)?”  If there aren’t any WIIFTVs, it’s simply not worth asking your members to volunteer their time and energy.

2. Catch volunteers doing things right: Look for ways to acknowledge success and a job well done. Make your feedback  positive, immediate and concrete.

3. Build bridges to the future: Invest the time, now, in building volunteer relationships that might pay off a year or two down the road.

4. Write the dictionary together: Listen carefully to the needs, hopes and aspiration of volunteers. Listen for the key words that define what success will look like and build upon that vocabulary.

5. Keep it simple: If you, or a volunteer, can’t explain it in a sentence or two, it’s probably too complicated.

6. Make volunteers and the association a solid hero: Recognize success and hard work and show genuine appreciation. It’s okay for staff to be excited when volunteers do a good job.

Paying attention to these rules is simply a way of paying close attention to your volunteers, what kind of experience they are having and focusing on outcomes that matter to your members.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Quit Torturing Your Volunteers

Oh, the things we ask of volunteers! But what happens when there is a misfit between duties of the volunteers and their strengths or talents? Let’s take a look at two association boards where the volunteers found themselves in a “torturous” situation.
A “Big Picture” Board is Tortured by the Financial Details.

Here we had a small association in dire financial straits; in fact, they were in danger of bankruptcy if they failed to turn things around. To assess the Board’s strengths and weaknesses, the Leadership Spectrum Profile® was used. The profile identifies six types of priorities a person is likely to favor and how that priority influences his or her decision-making process:
 Leadership Spectrum Profile®

Innovation and survival
Develop new ideas, products and services
Fast growth
Gain market share and win customers/new members
Manage risk and establish order
Build infrastructure, create systems and processes for high performance
Maximize results
Improve processes and procedures  for effective resource utilization and return
Maintain success
Develop committed workforce, build capabilities, & support culture/identity
Position for the future

Surface assumptions, practices, and issues; and create strategic options
© 1998-2002. The Leadership Spectrum Profile®. Enterprise Management Ltd.  All Rights Reserved

As you can see, the association’s situation required individuals who were Developers and Performers.  It turned out all the board members were either Challengers or Inventors. In other words, they were “big picture” thinkers and not well equipped with the skill set or temperament to meet the association’s immediate challenge. No wonder the board members were so frustrated!

A “Detail-oriented” Board is Tortured by the Big Picture.

In this case, the association represented the administrators for facilities heavily regulated by both the state and federal government. Thus, the members needed to be extremely detailed oriented in order to be successful in their work.

Now imagine the Board, consisting of such individuals, being asked to brainstorm about the future, envision multiple scenarios for success, develop a mission statement as well as broad strategies. Yes, it was a jarring mismatch. As one board member said, “This is torture for us. Our minds just don’t work this way...you're asking people with a checklist mentality to step back and look at the big picture.” The lesson: at future strategy meetings, it was agreed to invite “outsiders” with both industry knowledge and planning skills to coach the board.
The Bottom Line.

In both of the above examples, the volunteers were inadvertently “tortured.” Imagine the frustrations of being asked to meet an important challenge for which your talents and decision-making styles are not well suited. The goal, of course, is always to set up the volunteer to succeed - in these two cases, the opposite happened.

So ask yourself, are you “torturing” your volunteers? If so, stop doing it!