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Getting strategic with process management

Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Guest Writers
Finance & Administration
Boards & Governance
Christopher Barry

Every charity leader wants to be part of a great success story. To be the kind of leader who builds an organization with the energy and creativity to match shareholders’ expectations, grow philanthropy, execute against Mission, improve transparency and governance and raise brand profile in a very competitive marketplace.

To achieve that success, nonprofit leaders must focus on essentials. The question is how.

In my assignments as interim CEO/COO of national charities, there are two suggestions that have continued to work for me, and which might help you.

Determine What’s Valuable

First, leaders in business and government often discuss the Pareto Principle (named after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto) which states that 20% of what you do in your job will account for 80% of the value of all the things you do in your job. 

One example of the Principle is if you have a list of ten items to work on at the beginning of the day, two of those items will usually be more valuable and important than all the others put together. 

Another, particularly if you work in a nonprofit organization, is that you will find that 20% of your donors account for 80% of your revenues (as well as 80% of your stewardship activity). 

Every nonprofit should periodically conduct a review to ask itself “What are the 20% of our activities that are accounting for 80% of our results?” and then should organize itself so that it is doing more and more of those higher-value tasks.

The most important means of conducting such a continuing review is Organization Process Management.

Make It More Valuable

And that’s the second suggestion: Organization Process Management. Although it may sound as if it would require a year-long training course to do the topic justice, many nonprofit leaders are using Organization Process Management improvement techniques without realizing it or understanding their full potential.

As an interim nonprofit CEO, I have always believed adopting an Organization Process Management perspective can assist charities by adding more efficiency and effectiveness to the way in which they operate, and in many cases facilitating their survival and prosperity in the face of competition. It is also a valuable assist in employee training and building team collaboration across silos.

Whether focused on efficiency gains, innovation, revenue growth, cost reductions or stakeholder satisfaction, Process Management can become an essential ingredient for charity success.

How Does Process Management Work?

Process Management is the ongoing effort to improve everything you do (the services you offer, the funding you grant, the donations you raise, the performance schedule you promise, the employee and stakeholder involvement you develop, the costs you reduce) within a specific time period and following a specific method of continuous improvement.

There are several widely used methods of Process Management improvement such as Lean Six Sigma and Rummler-Brache.

The methodology I prefer is common sense, and that means looking at everything you do with fresh eyes. Ask the simple question: “What is slowing us down in achieving improved results in every aspect of our Mission?” 

Processes exist at all levels of a charity. There are Management processes (strategic planning, corporate governance), Operational processes (Fundraising, Human Resources and Training [the most important operational process], Marketing and Communications, Services Delivery and Funding Research) and Supporting processes (Finance, Information Technology).

My experience is that the biggest problem with process is many charities (and many businesses too, I hasten to add) don’t really know who “owns” a process in their organization. Sometimes it is a member of the leadership team, but many times the real owner is an individual in a non-leadership position. That is why leadership and employee involvement are key.

Your Role as a Leader or Manager

Leadership commitment and management support are critical for successful Process Improvement endeavours. Management at all levels should focus on:

  • Using their persuasive power that comes with their role to welcome process innovation
  • Setting clear objectives for improvement
  • Selecting improvement priorities and targets
  • Providing support
  • Dedicating resources

And the Payoff

What about the rewards for such efforts?

An investment of time and energy in Process Management initiatives will almost always result in dramatic, positive returns that affect the organization and its people, practices and services in a positive way.

Since the primary objective of Process Management is to continually improve productivity, a simple metric is to measure a return on your investment by looking at effectiveness, efficiency and quality year over year.

Producing process improvements consistently will enable organizations to:

  • Increase stakeholder satisfaction and communication
  • Plan and execute activities in a more disciplined fashion
  • Produce higher quality services
  • Analyze and continually improve on results
  • Improve employee morale
  • Reduce interdepartmental conflict

In today’s economy, charities should be seeking achievement in every area. Whether you work at the local or national level, Process Management has much to offer towards that goal.


About the Author

Christopher BarryWith more than twenty years of business transformation experience as a member of senior management teams Christopher Barry works with nonprofits to deliver improved bottom line results. Particular strengths are organization process improvement, integrated fundraising, program management, building digital donor communities and improving the donor relationship.

Since 2009 his nonprofit interim assignments have included serving as the CEO or COO of six important national nonprofit organizations in Canada.

His education includes a Master of Arts degree in International Trade from the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. He holds a Professional Logistician certification and speaks English, French and Mandarin Chinese.

Guest contributions represent the personal opinions and insights of the authors and may not reflect the views or opinions of Imagine Canada.

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