Authoring Your Own Success Story

organizational development strategy

I’ve spoken with many senior leaders of nonprofit organizations who are caught up in stories that fall short of being stories about success and greatness. Not that these leaders aren’t doing exemplary work, but their day-to-day narratives are too often not the narratives of greatness. And I can empathize with why this is so—I’ve been there.

As the CEO of a small nonprofit in Massachusetts, I faced the challenge of holding to the higher vision and core mission of our organization in face of very real organizational and financial challenges. I stepped into the leadership position at a stage in our development where we could no longer run on the energy and passion that gave rise to the organization. As I learned from the exceptionally gifted and experienced organizational development consultant who was guiding us through this crisis, at 18 years of age—late adolescence in her words—we were hitting the same wall that many nonprofits hit at this age...

Authenticity Is The Cutting Edge Of Culture

The topic of this video blog is − how the cutting edge of culture is authentic communication. Indeed, everywhere you turn today, you hear about authenticity. There are authenticity trends in publishing, online search, marketing, leadership development and cultural evolution. What’s going on? Why is this explosion of authenticity happening?

Why Is Competitive Advantage In The Nonprofit Sector So Important?

competitive advantage nonprofit  

Why is competitive advantage in the nonprofit sector so important? Assessing and optimizing competitive advantage is an essential discipline for any organization that is committed to becoming exceptional at what it is designed to do. This is no less true for nonprofit organizations than it is for for-profit companies. In a recent post on the Stanford Social Innovation Review’s blog, Defining Your Competitive AdvantageMollie West and Andy Posner stated this truth unequivocally:  

It’s unfortunate that social change organizations...

It’s unfortunate that social change organizations tend not to think about competitive advantage as it relates to social impact and growth; far too many nonprofit organizations view competition as something reserved for...

Healthy Conflict and Healthy Suffering Are Oxymorons

I Wish My Teams Would Clean The Cat Box With Pride -- Not Gonna Happen

Healthy conflict and healthy suffering are oxymorons. Do you believe that conflict or suffering make you stronger? In my experience, an attribute of highly effective leaders they know their role is to leverage creative tension, not to cause suffering. Creative tension is a different experience from suffering. It is one that makes you stronger. However, it is easy to confuse this different experience with suffering.  

Conflict Is Different From Creative Tension Conflict is a clash between an individual’s personality and something or someone else. Conflict is personal. It is about who you are. Whereas, creative tension is a clash between the role that an individual has chosen and something or someone else. It is not about who you are but about the role you choose to play. Conflict and suffering go together. However, with creative tension, suffering is optional.  

The First Business Strategy Tool Leaders Need

business strategy toolThe first business strategy tool leaders need is a framework for defining, precisely, how they go to market. Below is my favorite business strategy tool. It's a 'simplifying device.' It has never failed to create insight, innovation and, frankly, relief for clients. We call it the Business Triangle. It's worth noting that this business strategy tool applies equally to .com, .org, .gov, and .edu organizations.

First, a useful definition of a business: A business is a set of capabilities designed to develop, sell and deliver products and services to customers with the help of partners in order to create...

Team Culture and Business Model Alignment Equals Business Immortality


Team culture and business model alignment means businesses can live forever.  In fact, according to Sterling Seagrave's classic book "Lords of the Rim", about Chinese companies in Hong Kong, some offshore Chinese companies have been chartered and in business for thousands of years. However, their team cultures and business models certainly don't look as they did when they began. In some cases, what were once noodle shops have evolved into global electronics manufacturers or banks.

One of the key characteristics of a high-performance enterprise team is the ability to adapt to the environment. To adapt requires continuous innovation. And, continuous innovation requires alignment between top team culture and business model(s)...

What Is Nonprofit ROI?

nonprofit ROI

What is nonprofit ROI? There is donor pressure on nonprofit organizations to adopt business practices, like calculating ROI.

This pressure makes sense. If you are going to ask a donor for money, and you are confident that you are spending that money for important results, you should be able to articulate strategies and measure results that prove it.

But as a nonprofit leader, don’t get trapped. While the need to be disciplined in forecasting results is the same, nonprofit ROI is very different than for profit ROI.

Here is my definition of nonprofit ROI: mission and margin.

I co-led a team that won a $5m contract with USAID to support sustainable tropical forest economies in the Maya Biosphere Reserve in northern Guatemala...

Speech Acts Are How You And I Shape Reality

The Declaration of Independence Was A Speech Act

Speech acts are how you and I shape reality. Phrases like these are called speech acts: “will you marry me?”, “I’m willing to help“ and “the defendant is sentenced to death by hanging”.  The US Declaration of Independence was also a speech act -- one with profound implications.

After a speech act, big or small, the world shifts. And, as a result, new possible futures emerge, or collapse. Indeed, the ability to create speech acts is what makes humans different from animals.  

Effective leaders recognize when a speech act has occurred. They know how to intentionally create speech acts. And, they quickly adapt to the implications of how the world has changed after a speech act...

Post Merger Integration: Can the Marriage Thrive?


Post merger integration -- can the marriage thrive?  This question should probably be asked before a deal is consummated.  Just like a smart couple assesses  compatibility before tying the knot, it is possible in my experience to assess compatibility between businesses, pre-deal. So, can better dating lead to a better match and therefore better outcomes? 

Most business leaders would, of course, say yes. But in reality, most leave culture alignment issues and questions "for later". But at what cost? What if there were an efficient technology to measure partnership fitness on this side of the altar? Would it even be utilized?

To hear him tell the story, my client would say he heard the alarms and should have paid attention, but instead he practiced selective listening and outright denial. After all, he needed the IT capabilities of this small technology company, and needed them fast. So he overcame objections, and powered through the negotiation.

It wasn’t until 18 painful and unproductive months later...