All of you have visions of results to strive for: in assessment practices; in Board policies and practices of all kinds; in strategic planning and financial management; in the relationship between Board Chair and Executive Director; in fund-raising. What Fullan’s phrase does is put those results where they belong – not as vague hopes but as specific goals, not as things to talk and think about when we pause from our work but as the concepts that should animate our daily work.Read More
In The Social Profit Handbook, I urge the boards and staffs of social profit organizations to acquire a shared knowledge base. I ask people to imagine the rich ongoing conversation they could have with their colleagues if they asked: What do we need to all understand about our field to help us define and enhance our role in it?
I also ask: What do we need to understand about organizations so that we can have a healthy one? I suggest an exercise with a deliberately narrow boundary – the Foot-Long Bookshelf – and ask: If you had only a single, foot-long piece of bookshelf, and the books you put on it would be instantly known and well understood by the staff and board of your organization, what would you put on the shelf?
Here are my suggestions below, and I hope the list will expand with recommendations from others. Please nominate your own, and feel free to include essays, blogs and websites in addition to books. Thank you!
Wheatley notes that 20th-century science teaches us that the world is not as orderly and bound by physical laws as we once thought. If you think that Newton got it right and the universe unfolds logically, think again. Citing chaos theory, fractals, and the like, Wheatley observes that while a larger system finds an order, things are quite unpredictable at the local level. Suddenly we begin to understand why our best-laid plans often go awry.Read More
It is helpful not only for those leading change but also for everyone experiencing it to understand these otherwise hidden psychological forces. Such understanding helps us answer that most basic of assessment questions: What’s going on?Read More
The Heath brothers’ argument is elegantly compressed into an image -- a three-part metaphor for thinking about change: a human Rider, sitting on the back of an Elephant, proceeding (or not) down a Path.Read More
Another indicator of an assessment culture, right up there with planning backwards, understanding lifecycles, and thinking like designers, is making decisions in as participatory and transparent a way as possible.Read More
The first book I would propose for your shelf would be Nonprofit Lifecycles by Susan Stevens. At the Dodge Foundation, we used to buy this book by the carton to hand out to our grantees. Stevens presents a stage-based approach to understanding organizational development, identifying and explaining the following stages: Idea; Start-Up; Growth; Maturity; Decline; Turnaround; Terminal.Read More
Brown argues persuasively that design thinking is not reserved for architects and landscape gardeners, or those working on product teams at Apple or Gucci. My favorite notion in his book can be represented by a Venn diagram with three intersecting circles. Design thinkers are searching for the sweet spot in the middle of the drawing where three elements/conditions overlap: Desirability; Viability; and Feasibility. Viability means can we afford it? Feasibility means is it possible? Let’s note that in the social profit world, feasibility has technical, political, and cultural dimensions; it can get complicated.Read More