Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Marketing is irrelevant...

David Gammel from High Context referenced this really quite interesting article provocatively entitled, "Hiring is Obsolete," over at Kevin Holland's place.
all money can really buy you is sales and marketing. A sales force is worth something, I'll admit. But marketing is increasingly irrelevant. On the Internet, anything genuinely good will spread by word of mouth.
Obviously the point could be fiercely debated, but it seems to me the truth in it is striking. On the other hand, is marketing truly becoming irrelevant or is it a matter of semantics, i.e. what constitutes marketing? The article generally makes a lot of interesting observations on current trends, particularly in technology.

Ones I didn't get to...

Starting and Building a Nonprofit, A Practical Guide
By Peri H. Pakroo
ISBN # 1413300901

Skim: It's a new book from Nolo. Looks good especially in terms of legal structures, etc. Would be good to give to someone who was starting up a chapter or looking at starting a new organization (go figure). Also, good for chapter relations folks.

Budgeting and Financial Management Handbook for Not-for-Profit Organizations
By Edward J. McMillan
ISBN# 0880341580

Skim: I've read this book before when I was running chapter relations at AAMFT. It's good and very practical -- by that I mean lots of example documents you can use and modify. Somewhat lacking on the coding process, which I think every member of any nonprofit staff needs to be intimately familiar with, even if it is an accountant who dreams the whole thing up.

Fighting Fit: Boxing Workouts, Techniques and Sparring
By Doug Werner and Alan Lachica
ISBN# 1884654029

Skim: This book is a follow up to the last one I read, so it's just a little more detailed. Would be good if I can find the time. Sorry guys, I've been on the road so much I haven't gotten to see my coach in over a month.

Guerrilla Marketing with Technology

I have to go back to the library and some of the books in my stack I haven't really read. I did want to include a bullet point list from this book because it seems useful. This book focuses on the needs of small business, which I tend to find interesting because of the many parallels between the needs of small business and those of (drumroll please) small associations.

Here is a list of ten attitudes that should be primary to anyone operating a virtual small business. The summaries I have written; but the lists' subjects are the book's.

1. You operate according to a plan. Plan is brief and helpful, based on goals and reviewed regularly.

2. You grow your business according to a calendar. Outline your plans for the next year week by week.

3. You are the essence of flexibility. Customers first. We know this one already.

4. You're a giver and not a taker. You are known to give valuable things away. Interesting given all the recent discussions on this topic in the association blogoclump.

5. Your business has credibility. Everything connected with your business looks professional and inspires confidence in you.

6. You embrace the spirit of competitiveness. You're basically in the marketing business, so get used to it.

7. You are alert for fusion opportunities. Okay, this one gets a little heavy but basically, you should play well with others and look for win-wins.

8. You are at ease with technology. Self-explanatory.

9. You are the very soul of follow-up. This makes sense. Be OCD about not letting people hang.

10. You feel passion for your work. Again, self-explanatory.

I think the book would have some good structures and schemata in it for anyone who would find this kind of thing useful. Basically, it's what we do in associations every day and put relationships first.

By Jay Conrad Levinson
ISBN# 0201328046

Web Start-Ups

I found this post on a blog I hadn't visited before by a guy named Kevin O'Keefe. This list is a great reference for anyone trying to start up a web-based thinger, but it could be applicable in association work as well, given that associations need to build their communities as well. An advantage we association folks have is that we automatically get this nice tidy mission to work with - sometimes entrepreneurial types have to struggle to achieve that kind of focus.

Giving stuff away

I read this post on Garr Reynold's blog and found it to my liking. For me, he resolves an issue that I've been grappling with and provides an answer. Which is, don't discount your stuff, give it away. In a counterintuitive way, it makes great business sense.

UPDATE: Welcome Association, Inc. readers. I am glad to see this topic coming up because seriously, it does have a lot of applications in the nonprofit world. We see lots of models where our "products" are held behind members-only sections, etc., and maybe that's the way it should be. It can't be the only way though. As the nerds on Slashdot say, "information wants to be free."

They also say "all your base are belong to us," however. For great justice.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Hypomanic Edge

The whole title is called The Hypomanic Edge: The Link Between (a Little) Craziness and (a Lot of) Success in America. Which is kind of funny because even the title is a little manic. There's a great soundbite on the front inside cover that says: "Why is America so rich and powerful? The answer lies in our genes, according to psychologist John Gartner." I got the book from the library after seeing it on Garr Reynold's website.

First, Gartner talks a little about what it means to be hypomanic, or, in other words, a little manic. He talks about what that looks like in people. Basically, it looks pretty familiar. So Gartner would probably tell me that because I live in the U.S., that we have a very high sample of these kinds of individuals. It does make sense because people who are hypomanic tend to be immigrants far more often than others. He has statistics to make this argument, which are quite interesting.

The rest of the book looks at brief biographies of individuals who typify the hypomanic trait in a sort of retrospective clinical way. Gartner makes the inference that each of these individuals was hypomanic, and he does a good job proving why that makes sense. He reviews the lives of Christopher Columbus (the best chapter); Winthrop, Williams and Penn who all share a chapter; Alexander Hamilton; Andrew Carnegie; the Selznick and Mayer families; and Craig Venter.

Gartner concludes by looking at the hypomanic trend of our nation in general. He says, I think rightly, that Europe alternates between envy and distated based on our hypomanic tendencies. He talks about it in the context of September 11, in which he admits a fear that the U.S. will cease to be an immigrant nation. I don't see this being much of a concern, even in light of the anecdote he cites of DHS busting some Wal-Mart illiegals.

By John D. Gartner
ISBN # 0743243447

Friday, November 25, 2005

Managerial Excellence

This book is a compliation of McKinsey Award Winners from the Harvard Business Review for the years 1980 through 1994. I got the book at the library and thought "Oh, Managerial Excellence, that should be useful." But, since it's a compilation covering a large time period from awhile ago, a lot of the articles are shall we say, in need of an update. So I picked an article that is still fairly fresh and read it for detail.

It's an article entitled, "Good Communication that Blocks Learning," by Chris Argyris. The thesis of the article is that basically, our "best practices" for getting at the bottom of problems maybe aren't that good; instead, they serve to give us the information we already know. (Which according to a professor of mine, isn't very useful since communication only involves exchange of information previously unknown to one party.)

So, people use what he calls "single-loop learning," or one-dimensional questions, an example of which is a thermostat. The information is measured against a standard and spit back. It is a binary transaction and tells you precisely one thing.

Double-loop learning, on the other hand, turns the question back on the questioner by asking follow up questions. For example, to continue the thermostat example, we would ask if that's the right standard to find out what we want, and if there were other factors that should be examined, etc. Not a binary transaction.

He talks about his work getting into companies his observations. He says that a lot of the managers avoid these kinds of questions, because "digging would have uncovered employee's collusion with inefficient process." I found this sound bite to be interesting because I have observed the phenomenon and not had words for it. But that is it, isn't it? People want to save their own and others' faces and digging for problems will hurt that possibility. However, if a good relationship exists, you ought to be able to both dig for inefficient process and maintain the relationships. I think that kindness and good, old-fashioned charity is the key here.

Eds., Rajat Gupta and Nan Stone
ISBN # 08584670X

Monday, November 21, 2005

Managing the Nonprofit Organization (Part Five)

Developing Yourself

1. You are responsible

Nonprofits lack resources. You cannot blame this for shoddy work. That is bad. "Then you begin to blame the world," and you become a victim. That sucks. Don't do it. Self-development is important for nonprofit executives, staffers and volunteers.

2. What do you want to be remembered for?

Craftsmanship counts is what he says here. I like the way that's put because I like the idea of crafting things, and coming up with a deliverable from an idea is very rewarding for me. So this is a good validation for that perspective.

A quote: "You can only make yourself effective, not anyone else. Creating a record of performance is the only thing that will encourage people to trust you and support you."

You should gather feedback on your own performance. I always think about this in context of looking for jobs. When you get a rejection letter, you should probably call them up and ask them what you could improve, etc., but I never feel like doing this. Still, I could ask a boss or colleague for feedback more comfortably.

You might need to repot yourself, to give your roots room to grow.

Go visit people on their turf. It puts them at ease and helps your relationship. He uses the example of a pastor who visits his parishioners at their place of work so that he can better put himself in their shoes.

3. Nonprofits, the second career: interview with Robert Buford

4. The woman executive in the nonprofit organization: interview with Roxanne Spitzer-Lehmann

5. Summary: action implications

By Peter Drucker
ISBN # 0887306012

Managing the Nonprofit Organization (Part Four)

1. People decisions

Drucker provides some useful hiring advice. Now, I've never had the final say over whether someone was to be hired or not, however, I have had the chance to initiate a review of candidates and offer my selections. This advice would have been useful then, and it would be useful to anyone who's responsible for hiring, whether for their team or for their own operation. He says people focus too much on a candidate's weaknesses. Says rather, you should hire for their strengths. Slogan of the handicapped association "don't hire a person based on what they can't do, but on what they can."

Says there's not much of a correlation between what a person is capable of at twenty-three and what they do when they're fifty. Harvard kids might burn out and someone less educated or impressive might burn low and hit their stride later in their career.

How to develop people? Uses the example of a pastor he knows who works with young people (of course this applies to anyone, and is a great thing for volunteers). The pastor says he provides people with four things: 1) a mentor 2) a teacher to develop skills; 3) a judge to evaluate progress; and 4) an encourager to cheer him/her on. The pastor takes the role of the cheerleader and has other people fill the other roles.

This thought is interesting: an organization either helps people grow or it stunts them. In my experience, that is true, but it wouldn't have been intuitive to anyone on the outside watching my situation. My introduction to the nonprofit world was a medium-sided professional association with adequate resources and that ran a tight ship in terms of operations and leveraging resources. Yet, I found myself stunted. Even though I loved the volunteers I worked with, after about a year, I maxed out the amount of growth I was allowed to have. Moving on to my next employer, they are on much less stable ground financially, politically, and otherwise. Yet, cheered on by a completely supportive boss, the sky has been the limit in terms of the contribution I am able to make; and I am needed. That makes me feel good about what I do and makes me much more confident for future career decisions I may make.

An observation I saw that rang true with the dysfunctional sister organization I'm always talking about was this one: "to allow non-performers to stay on means letting down the organization and the cause." As I mentioned in my part three post, the poisonous culture stems from two or three people and is systematically ignored because of loyalty to long-time employees. To me, since resources for this cause are scarce and people in our community are in such need of help, it borders on immoral to let people stay on the rolls and not contribute. People in small organizations have to be better, faster and smarter than people in large, more corporate-based environments.

Additionally, I had a thought regarding an employee evaluation practice that I would like to see. The manager would actually not do it as an afterthought, but rather would do a preview, tell the employee what his/her concerns were and have some open communication. Then, the manager could ask the employee to come up with a workplan with milestones. As the milestones got met, the employee could get bonuses. Now, the for-profit world does this kind of thing all the time I'm sure. However, all the nonprofits I'm familiar with are loathe to do anything approaching merit-based raises. I had my evaluation recently and I received the maximum, 4%. Now, there is nothing wrong with a 4% raise per se, however, you have to realize that I have done so much heavy lifting this year that my muscles are sore (metaphorically, you understand). My contributions have been noticed, yet there is no mechanism to reward people for it. And obviously, with nonprofits mostly paying substantially less than for-profits, these raise percentages are important or you'll never grow out of eating Mac and Cheese. Begging for Change brings up this point.

2. Key relationships

This part concerns the role of the board versus the role of the staff. It's very timely for me to be reading this what with my recent board meeting. The board members actually discussed the Carver model and I could tell that there was some familiarity with it. However it was incompletely understood. I think what happens is that people expect x or y approach to be the magic bullet and in reality, there's a lot of slogging through mundane work that has to be done to move forward. It's like strategic planning. I have found strategic plans to be wonderful "rulers" for my day-to-day work as a staff person. And the board of the organization I worked for had a good plan that we all used.

I had a discussion with a board member during a break and I told him that Carver is still very much informing the way boards do business and that without it, board and staff are confused on their roles and end up stepping on each others' toes (which is bad). He said yes that's true but you have to have a staff you can trust. (The organization has some history wherein an executive director used the board and almost destroyed the organization). I didn't know what to say to that given their history, which involves a negative experience with an executive director.

Here's what Drucker has to say about the board's job, and I believe it's very much informed by Carver. "To be effective, a nonprofit organization needs to have a strong board, but a board that does a board's work. The board not only helps think through an organization's mission, it is the guardian of that mission, and makes sure the organization lives up to its basic commitment. The board has the job of making sure the nonprofit has competent management--and the right management. The board's role is to appraise the performance of the organization. And, in a crisis the board members may have to be the firefighters." He goes on to talk about the board's fundraising responsibility. This is less true, I think, in a professional group, but remains very important in social service groups. And people don't talk about it enough, I think.

Also, "A board that understands its real obligations and sets goals for its own performance won't meddle. But if you leave the board's role open and undefined, you'll get one that interferes with details and yet doesn't do its own job."

"In my experience, the CEO is the conscience of the board. That may explain why the strong, effective boards I've seen are almost all boards where members come on through a nominating process. I very rarely have seen a truly strong board in co-ops, for instance, where boards are elected by the membership. There the chairperson has no say about who sits on a board, nor has the CEO. Then you get boards that may represent this or that segment of the membership, but they don't represent the organization, at least in my experience. Problems are likely to arise in these boards, such as the troublemakers who abuse the board to create a political platform for themselves or just to hear themselves talk." This reminds me of a great article I found in CAI's publication, which gives a profile of different kinds of troublemakers on the boards of different organizations.

3. From volunteers to unpaid staff: interview with Father Leo Bartel

I started to skim this part, but I soon found the interviewee really knew his stuff and had some great ideas. Basically, it comes down to really, really good communication.

Fr Bartel had great ideas and what I liked was that he was very optimistic about his volunteers. He's saying that people deliver when you have high expectations of them. This is something I wholeheartedly agree with and if you can make the time to help people see the vision they will step up.

4. The effective board: interview with Dr. David Hubbard

Ditto what I said about number three, but this one had me hooked too. The seminary where Hubbard works has a board system where the board members are evaluated at the end of their terms and then the decision is made whether they re-up or not. How's that for quality assurance? I can imagine that system is awesome but it sure would be hard to have start up.

He uses a side-by-side org chart with board, faculty and staff all lateral to one another. This is because these are all "centers of power." This is a good way of dealing with the complicated stakeholder situation that most nonprofits face.

Hubbard uses a staff model where he has a staffer whose job it is to help him keep the board on the same page. I recently saw on ASAE's job board a position called "Executive Services Manager," that I thought at the time seemed like a great position to have around. This interview is a good resource to have around for anyone managing a board.

The board member has four roles

1) governor
2) sponsor
3) ambassador
4) consultant

5. Summary: action implications

People require clear, straightforward assignments.

By Peter Drucker
ISBN # 0887306012

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Managing the Nonprofit Organization (Part Three)

1. What is the bottom line when there is no bottom line?

Businesses as a default can rely on profit as an effectiveness measure. Nonprofits cannot use this concrete measure meaningfully. There are many different ways of looking at measurements that can serve as bottom lines of sorts, but the trick is to pick the right measurement to look at. And that can change over time, so it needs to be incorporated into the strategic planning (or whatever you want to call it) process.

Nonprofits have many different customers which all need to be pleased to differing degrees.

Drucker talks about the difficulty nonprofits have abandoning lost causes.

Nonprofits have to distinguish between moral causes and economic causes. A moral cause is an absolute good. Preachers have been thundering against fornication for five thousand years. Results, alas, have been nil, but that only proves how deeply entrenched evil is. The absence of results indicates only that efforts have to be increased. This is the essence of a moral cause.

Of course, you have to get out of this mindset and focus on putting your resources where the results can be found.

2. Dos and Don'ts: the basic rules

Don't become inward-looking. If you serve a community, get out into it. Feuding and bickering should not be tolerated. Personally, I see a terrible problem with this in an organization I work with. The culture is totally poisonous to anything remotely resembling innovation and the queen bees will either a) try to get the heretic fired, with some degree of success, or; b) make the heretic's life so miserable that they quit. So what happens is you get this self-selecting group of nincompoops who are so wholly and totally incompetent that they are slowing steering the organization off course, an inch at a time. Management is unprepared to make the difficult personnel decisions required therefore the situation shows no sign of improving. An interesting observation from the chapter: "most people think feuding and bickering bespeak 'personality conflicts.' They rarely do. They are usually symptoms of the need to change the organization."

It's important to build the organization around information and not around hierarchy. Everyone should take information responsibility. "Everyone needs to learn to ask two questions: What information do I owe others so that they can do their job, in what form, and when?"

This can be called an information-based environment. "People must take responsibility for informing their bosses and their colleagues and above all, educating them." I say preach it, brother. However, who hasn't worked in an environment where bosses refuse to 'be educated.' These individuals think that if they don't know something and admit it, that is a sign of failure. So in those cases a therapist needs to do an intervention and talk about how we are all unique and special. Drucker says all is okay because this can happen in an "environment of mutal trust."

"It is more important in the nonprofit institution than it is in a business to insist on the clarity of commitments and relationships, and on the responsibility, for making yourself understood."

Delegation needs clear rules to become productive. It also needs follow up.

Drucker says if the organization has sub-units like chapters that are only semi-independent, it's important that the top people visit them personally and not do this through staff. My guess is that this is a relationship thing that needs to come from the top down. I can say as a staff person (not at the top) that my visits to the field have been appreciated, but that it is true that these people crave attention from the organization.

Standards should be high, goals should be ambitious, but all should be attainable.

"People need to know how they do. Achievement [for volunteers] is the sole reward." This is a tip I have actually learned through experience, but I am glad to see it in print over Drucker's signature. Working in chapter relations, I was always sort of amazed to hear staff talk about how thus and such was unacceptable, and how our volunteers were not dedicated, or what have you. My deal was always: it's up to us to make the job doable. If they are having problems with x or y, then maybe we should look at our process and see what we can streamline. I mean, you always have to deal with the bell curve, but you can make some strategic improvements. For Drucker, in order to motivate volunteers, you should "feature them," show them off.

3. The effective decision

Ask 'what is this decision really about?' Very rarely is a decision about what it seems to be about. That's usually a symptom."

Find the targets of opportunity and concentrate on them.

There should be dissent, according to P.D. This fact should be intuitive given that he states earlier it's everyone's job to educate their boss. The process of educating is rarely going to give the person being educated everything they want to hear, I would think. Tells the story of FDR who said if there was concensus on an important issue, it shouldn't be made right then, but should be thought about more fully.

"Disagreements must be brought out into the open and taken seriously." You can start by saying, "let's see what we can agree on."

4. How to make the schools accountable: interview with Albert Shanker

5. Summary: action implications

Don't downplay results. Results are outside the organization, not inside. "Only when a nonprofit's key performance areas are defined can it really set its goals."

By Peter Drucker
ISBN # 0887306012


I read Jamie Notter's thoughts on blogging and it led me to have some thoughts of my own. I have been doing this for about a month now, and I don't feel like stopping any time soon. For me, blogging the books I read has brought my self-education to a great new level. When I read something now, I feel like I have a deliverable, which motivates me to get more out of what I'm reading. I read more carefully, and I take special notes of action steps and useful formulae that I find. Additionally, although the mission of my blog is primarily to serve as a "virtual bookshelf," I find myself wanting to turn other professional experiences into deliverables. It definitely clarifies my thinking, and has the added benefit that at some point, I could possibly transmit something I've learned to others.

Managing the Nonprofit Organization (Part Two)

Part two of Drucker's seminal nonprofit management book is entitled "From Mission to Performance," which articulates the whole nonprofit challenge. Currently since I work for a patient advocacy organization (also known as a VHA or "voluntary health agency") that is a real challenge. I find that this is less of a challenge in a more market-driven environment, such as a trade or professional association. I really get bummed out with the chronic underfunding of the more charitable environments. I feel like, if I have to live with that level of uncertainty, I might as well work for myself, because then I could depend on myself at least. But that is another story.

Again, I will structure these notes around the great framework of the section.

1. Converting good intentions into results

Napoleon (no, not Mr. Dynamite!) says you only need three things to win a war. Money, money and more money. However, Drucker says you need more than that to run an effective nonprofit. You need:

1) a plan
2) marketing
3) people
4) money

Questions posed: How do we get our service to the "customer"? How do we market it? How do we get the money we need to provide the service?

2. Winning strategies

"There's an old saying that good intentions don't move mountains, bulldozers do [ed. it must not be that old of a saying]. In nonprofit management, the mission and the plan--if that's all there is--are the good intentions. Strategies are the bulldozers."

Gist is to focus on what you do well and to continuously improve those capabilities. Make sure your mission is on target and that all your definitions work.

You need a plan and you need logistics. Then, "to carry out the process, you need to use oth written and verbal communication. A written process has the great advantage that you can hand out a sheet to everybody, go down the line, check it off and say, 'Any questions on point three?' [...] It invites questions."

Common mistakes: to go from idea into full-scale operations without testing. "Don't omit the pilot stage." Arrogance. Trying to patch up the old when all-new is needed. Don't keep trying something that isn't working. Try twice and then move on.

3. Defining the market: interview with Philip Kotler

Marketing is segmenting, targeting and positioning.

Strategy begins with a mission and leads to a work plan. It ends with the right tools: a kit for volunteers, etc.

Strategy exploits opportunity at the right moment.

4. Building the donor constituency: interview with Dudley Hafner

5. Action implications

"Research, research and more research. Organized attempts to find out who the customer is, what is of value to the customer, how the customer buys."

By Peter Drucker
ISBN # 0887306012

Friday, November 18, 2005

Managing the Nonprofit Organization (Part One)

"The task of the nonprofit manager is to try to convert the organization's mission statement into specifics." p. 5

This book was published in 1990, but it seems much, much fresher than that, as if it came off the presses yesterday. The problems that are articulated in it are still very much being dealt with by many organizations and the leaders Drucker interviews throughout the book are still coming off as brilliant leaders. As they (actually, as I) say, plus ça change, plus c'est la même affaire...

The organization of the book was great. It is organized into five parallel sections. It is very well organized, so I'll just use that underlying structure to arrange my notes. I have taken notes of observations I have found useful and that ring true.

1. your mission comes first, your role as a leader

a. the commitment

b. leadership is a foul-weather job

"You have the problem of organizing the new. It must be organized separately... If you put new ideas into operating units, whether it's a theological seminary or an automobile plant--the solving of the daily crisi will always take precedence over introducing tomorrow. So, when you try to develop the new within an existing operation, you are always postponing tomorrow. It must be set up separately. And yet you have to make sure the existing operations don't lose the excitement of the new entirely. Otherwise, they become not only hostile, but paralyzed."

This is something that rang true with me as I have tried to add components to programs. There is like this enormous kinetic energy you have to fight against, it feels like you are lifting something that weighs a ton and you just have to use every bit of leverage you have. So, this organizing the new makes sense. Like, you have to carve out space and let the chi mix up.

Mentions having a taskforce to serve as R & D in the nonprofit setting. However, in this environment, you cannot isolate planning from R & D. Obviously, since there are three people in my office right now, we don't do a lot of isolating planning from anything.

The chapter alks about how to pick a leader. One should look for strengths, rather than weaknesses. You want people who take their roles seriously, not themselves. This one was great: "There are simply no such things as leadership traits or leadership characteristics." p. 18

I have always thought that people who are themselves, i.e. "authentic," are able to achieve and sustain success to an amazing degree, and so that's how I've tried to set myself up. Drucker gives me a rationale: "When effective nonprofit leaders have the capacity to maintain their personality and individuality--even though they are totally dedicated--the task will go on after them."

If people are not authentic, basically they are doing things to get something for themselves. The guy who wrote Why Nonprofits Fail alludes to this in one of his reasons.

One key task is to balance long- and short range, big picture and details. Isn't that the truth? I feel like I have to do this so much as a program director. Also, Drucker mentions that you have to maintain a balance between seeing the big picture and forgetting the individual who sits at the receiving in. For example, in my case right now, those are the patients who are served by my patient advocacy association.

You have to "know your degenerative tendency and try to counteract it." Basically, this is what I've been trying to articulate at job interviews I've had. You have to work with your own weaknesses or non-strengths just like you work with others. So you first have to recognize it.

c. Setting new goals: Interview with Frances Hesselbein

She was the leader of the Girl Scouts of America and this interview focuses predominantly on the development of the Daisy Scouts, at the time a new program targeting younger girls. She and Drucker speak of customers or constitiencies. "Rarely does a nonprofit or group have A customer." Usually there are many groups to deal with.

d. What the leader owes: interview with Max De Pree

e. summary: action implications

Napoleon says you only need three things to win a war. Money, money and more money. However, Drucker says you need more than that to run an effective nonprofit. You need:

1) a plan
2) marketing
3) people
4) money

He talks more about all of these later on.

The rest of the book will come later... It's been a busy, busy week with all the travel I'm doing. Wednesday I was in Austin, today it's St. Louis. It will get calmer next week, though.

By Peter Drucker
ISBN # 0887306012

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

I Want That

I read the current issue of Business 2.0 on my way home to D.C. Two things caught my eye. They had a picture of this shirt, which I think is awesome. The other thing I couldn't remember.

Harriet Tubman

I read this book because I followed the trail from Robert Egger's book Begging for Change. He said that Harriet Tubman had done groundbreaking work in the field of nonprofit administration. How interesting, I thought. Since I love biographies anyway, it wasn't too difficult for me to get into this book. The book is by Catherine Clinton.

Seriously, I think "inspiring" is the best word to describe her life. I felt impassioned as I read this book, and empowered to think what you can accomplish even when an entire culture is set against you in a formal, articulated way.

I learned a lot of things that I hadn't known before. For example, that Harriet Tubman was born on Maryland's Eastern Shore and that my adopted home state is the place where she came and did a lot of her rescues.

I learned a lot about the culture of the freemen and the slaves and the political environment in which they found themselves. Obviously, there is great discussion of the abolitionist movement in general. The authentic descriptions of slave/colored status are heartbreaking, but not sentimental, which I think is quite a feat. It is fine writing.

I hadn't known that Harriet Tubman was a war hero in her own right and that she spent years "volunteering" in South Carolina and Virginia in order to further the Union cause. I also hadn't known about the Canadian history of the Underground Railroad. I had known that there must have been some because when I lived in Quebec I met black people who had called Canada home for generations.

The end of her life, which I assume is the part that Egger's book is referring to, recounts all the effort that Harriet expended in founding a charity to take care of "those of her race." I think the most impressive part was that she didn't appear to have any trouble at all making the case for funding, apparently she was always taking up a basket and collecting funds for needy cases, when in fact, she was quite hard-pressed for funds more often than not. I think this must be what Egger refers to when he quite urgently tells of the need to cut the fat out of nonprofit executives' salaries: Tubman was authentic because, in her hour of need, she thought of others first.

A good book, I highly recommend this read if you have any biographical leanings at all.

UPDATE: I sent an email to the author and got a response! Here is my email:
I read your book this weekend and it was a real page-turner, couldn't put it down. I was glad to learn more about Harriet Tubman, who I didn't even realize was from my adopted home state. She was an inspiring woman and you bring her to live amazingly.

I love biography and am wondering how you get started doing that. Obviously, you have an academic background. Is it possible in practice for someone w/o formal historian background to write biographies? I have one in mind that I keep thinking would be interesting.
Here is her response:
Dear Nick,

Thanks for your kind words.

Please know that I so very much appreciate messages from readers. Yours is especially pleasing because it show that the book touched you. Please know that Harriet Tubman is an inspiration. She would tell you and anyone who has a dream to "Keep Going."

I did have an academic background, but its not required. Many biographers are writers who have a gift for their subjects and pursue their topic with zeal--

I do think that taking some writing courses or doing writing workshops, perhaps at a local university or community college can help you to focus your energies.

Thanks again for your letter,
By Catherine Clinton
ISBN # 0316144924

Board Book Cover Sheet

Here are two examples of cover sheets I came across as I was preparing for a recent board meeting. This one my president gave me. He's the city attorney in St. Cloud, Minnesota and this is the cover they use at city council meetings.

This one they use at my old work, AAMFT. It is very straightforward and user-friendly, and obviously the different needs of the different entities have a lot to do with the cover sheets' difference.

I of course adapted them for my current needs, coming up with one that looks like this.

Peter Drucker

Some of the blogs I follow have been talking about Peter Drucker, who quite recently died. I actually had checked out a couple of books from the library on him, including the Nonprofit Management one, which I haven't gotten too quite yet. However, I did read Robert Heller's treatment, published by DK press, called Peter Drucker: The Great Pioneer of Management Theory and Practice.

For me, the book was an exceptional introduction to Drucker's work, with which I hadn't been familiar since my degree isn't in management. Turns out that Drucker was light years ahead of his time, at least from my nonspecialist perspective. Everything that people are saying now about "marketing is about relationships," etc., Drucker was saying way back in his career. Additionally, another bit of keen foresight was his focus on "self-governing community," as the ideal in management systems. (This was, I believe, a long time before anyone was using the term "knowledge worker".)

Of course, one thing this overview spends time on is Drucker's trick of measuring everything. This makes sense, especially given Drucker's overall raison-d'être of proving that management is a distinct discipline. It seems that everyone in my small nonprofit world has glommed on to the measurement trick, however, without really ever doing it. Everybody wants to say they are measuring stuff but in reality, does it happen? If it did, I think that nonprofits would be more successful. His ideas are definitely useful.

Just one more plug for the actual book, it has this really useful "master class" section , that diagrams concepts in a very user-friendly way. Here is one of them.

I actually really like this whole series, so I will likely read the other books on Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.

By Robert Heller
ISBN # 0789451581

Monday, November 14, 2005

Ritz-Carlton Table Settings

It has been a while since I wrote but work has been a total zoo and I just got back from a trip to Detroit. I have gotten a lot of reading done, but no time to enter it all in just yet. However, I did want to make a note of the table settings that I spotted at the Ritz. They have cobalt blue glasses here water. They have tumblers and also water goblets. They used the blue tumblers for their classroom setup. They used the goblets ones with breakfast. They put one blue one and one clear one. Clear was for juice and blue was for water. Nice look. Here is kind of what the goblet looked like.

I did a Froogle search and was unable to find the thing so I'll have to do more research.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Boundary Management

This looks like a good resource. Gosh, I'll be glad when I get my head around this board meeting.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

What goes in the board manual?

This is a great reference from BoardSource. I used it today to help me get ready for our board meeting in St. Louis which promises to be a lively one!

Figaro Article

Having failed at school, rioters take to the schools to avenge themselves. A dozen primary schools burned during the weekend. Many parents helped teachers clean the premises.

by Cecilia Gabizon
08 November 2005

"They burned the school and it makes sense," provoked Tewfik, who spent 18 years in Grigny (Essonne) where the Sleeping Beauty Primary School was burned. "Everyone is sick of the hypocrisy: here, school is useless; all you have to do is look at us!" A friend of Tewpik's continues: "Ninety percent fail, 10 percent graduate and 100 percent are unemployed." Brahim adds "The whole system is undermined from below." They describe the hostile universe, cruel teachers, injustices and professional orientation equivalent to being "thrown in the trash can." Without diplomas and without employment, they prefer rancor over regrets.

These products of the educational system are they who took to these vulnerable primary schools, according to reports. One more fire for the record books, the assurance of garnering the media's attention without terrible consequences, they believe: "These primary schools will be rebuilt tomorrow. The state has money," a young man called Rabat claims.

This is a classic speech for this deliquent youth who "for 10 years has targeted institutions judged responsible for their situation," explains Hughes Lagrance, sociologist at the Observatory for Change (CNRS). The self-destructive delinquance of the 1980s, the main manifestation of which was theft, left in place an urban guerilla war, led by youth failing out of the scholastic system. From one generation to the next, one struggles to understand the situation. Thirty-somethings observe fearfully "these kids who have no respect."

"Go after the cops"

Saturday night and early Sunday morning, after the fire in 5 classrooms of Sleeping Beauty Primary School in Grigny II, the grown-ups of the city try one more time to intervene. "If you have a problem with Sarkozy, don't attack your neighbor's car or your cousin's school. Go after the cops," says Kamel, 30. Sunday, around 100 hooded young people confronted members of the police force with pump guns for hours, under the watchful eye of their neighbors. According to a local courier, Mady, 27, they were "attracted by something you don't see everyday."

Bothered by the prospect of commenting on the confrontation with the police, these residents preferred to denounce "those who go after their neighbor's cars or schools." "It's crazy," Ladji Douvouré says laconically. Ms Douvouré is a world-class athlete who grew up in the neighborhood. "Here, they take care of us with scholarships, with free books. It's not like how it is in Africa." A young mother says "it doesn't make sense to attack these schools where there aren't any French people. There are only we, children of immigrants."

Everyone tries to figure out a rationale that makes sense. "This primary school is in a far-off corner. The rioters were probably acting out of opportunism," Hélène Ouanas, a school inspector ventures.

Cleanining up the classrooms

Since the return to school in September, the students in the school had been busy decorating their classroom. "It was their school project, all their work has gone up in smoke," laments one mother, who showed up spontaneously to help clean on Sunday. Like her, dozens of people, men, youth, mothers wearing African garb or saris came out of their neighboring highrises to put order back into the carbonized rooms. Many families, however, chose to keep their children home Monday for fear that things would get worse. Said, a BAC +5 and security guard at BHV has three children at home. "It takes nothing for the shooting to start up again." Then, the next time you turn around the schools will be the target again of a few enraged individuals, indifferent to the hopes and successes of the neighborhood families.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Le Monde Coverage

Welcome to my blog! Although you can see this is not normally the focus of my writing (haha) I have decided to put my degree to some use! So I'm helping with coverage of the French rioting. I will work on these articles as I have time. Here is the lead article from Le Monde.


Following 12 days of what he called “unacceptable and inexcusable rioting,” Dominique de Villepin appeared Monday night on TF1 to present his “emergency measures.” He promised that the state’s response would be “firm and fair.” The prime minister emphasized that if necessary, a curfew would be instituted in sensitive areas. He also announced the strengthening of an aid package to voluntary associations covering three areas: education, unemployment/welfare, and housing. He further specified that prefects will be able to impose a curfew in their districts as soon as Wednesday morning following announcement in the Journal official.

Strengthening the police force

Responding to questions about how the violence took root (namely the death of two teenagers who, believing they were being pursued by the police, hid themselves in an electrical transformer; and, the throwing of teargas bombs in front of the mosque in Clichy-sous-Bois), the prime minister promised transparency with regard to the investigation. He also affirmed that at no time was any mosque targeted by members of the police force. According to him, “criminal networks are strengthening the disorder,” in the suburbs, but these are also the result of youth “broken off from society.” He called for parents to be responsible so that “calm may return.” Asked if islamist extremists were at the root of these problems, the prime minister responded, “today, that is not at the heart of the matter.”

The head of government announced that the number of policemen would be raised from 8,000 to 9,500, following a decision to send 1,500 extra reservists.

The prime minister announced the Jacques Chirac has called a special meeting of his ministers Tuesday morning treating the application of a curfew “wherever necessary,” activating provisions of the 1955 law. “Prefects will be able, under the authority of the interior minister, to apply the curfew if they find it useful to allow calm to return and to assure the protection of residents. They prefects will determine which areas are most sensitive where they judge such a measure to be necessary.” He said the use of the armed forces is premature, but regarding the creation of city citizen committees, he allows that “all those who are able to bring calm are useful.”

Funding for Associations

Dominique de Villepin also announced that his government would restore financial contributions to associations in recent difficulty. He said the situation necessitates strengthening local authorities who would then serve as the orchestrators of dialogue in sensitive areas.

The prime minister then detailed his “three big priorities”. First, education in the republic should be a priority, he said, evoking the 15,000 truants in France. He proposes apprenticeships at age 14 instead of 16 for those children who have more scholastic difficulty; to triple funding for existing scholarship programs; and, to create Internships of Excellence and the like which would put in place a mentorship program between the “Grandes Ecoles” and secondary schools.

Concerning employment, the prime minister noted that unemployment affects nearly 40% of the young people in certain neighborhoods. He called on the ANPE and local employment missions to receive the unemployed in urban sensitive zones to offer them a job or an apprenticeship three months hence.

With regard to housing, he referred to existing programs and expressed a wish that current waitlists be reduced to 18 months. Mr. De Villepin said that “we cannot turn a blind eye to discrimination,” and called on everyone to make an effort. In conclusion he reminded listeners that the Republic, “is made up of rights, but also duties,” and called for a Republic that would show “brotherhood, hospitality, and where everyone is respected for who he is.”

“With the Borloo plan for urban revitalization we have begun a remarkable work,” he affirmed, specifying that the program “destroys or rehabilitates buildings and reconstructs more human spaces.” He estimates that waitlists can be reduced to 18 months and expressed a wish that the government can “multiply this type of effort.”

The prime minister Dominique de Villepin announced Monday on TF1 that he wanted to give a proper sanctioning power to the high authority of the war on discrimination and for equality (HALDE). This organization, created by the law of 31 December 2005 and signed by President Chirac on June 23, does not currently have sanctioning authority. However, it authorizes seizure and subpoena of documents. Its purpose is to aid victims of discrimination for racism, religious intolerance, sexism, homophobia, or physical disability. HALDE’s president is Mr. Louis Schweitzer, former CEO of Renault.

Changing Behaviors

He called on everyone to “change their behavior and their judgments” in order to end discrimination. “I have spoken with a large number of youth. Each one expresses the same suffering, the feeling of being singled out, to not have the same opportunities, of being different,” he said. “There are many state programs, the creation of a High authority on the war against discrimination and for equality to which we are trying to give a proper sanctioning authority,” he confirmed. “There are businesses adopting diversity policies in order to provide employment for these youth. But it is also the responsibility of everyone to change our behavior and our judgments. We should collectively measure this problem which is at the heart of our nation,” underlined the chief of government. “I say this to all: the Republic is composed of rights and duties. And when we see the pictures we’re seeing, these duties are not being respected. All those who are in the Republic, regardless of their age have duties vis-à-vis the Nation and the Republic, a brotherly Republic which unites and welcomes, but also a Republic which must be respected, where everyone is respected for what he is.”


Friday, November 04, 2005

How to Run for Local Office

If I ever want to run for local office, this book is a great resource. It is extremely practical.

The gist is to always go after your "good voters". The guy who wrote the book is a mayor of a town in Michigan called Westland, pop. 85,000. Of those, 60-some are registered voters but only 15,000 are "good voters" who vote in the municipal elections. So every effort should be targeted at those.

Of course he goes into details such as fundraising and what kind of signs to buy. Also, there is useful information on how to begin the very first steps which is the kind of thing that's hard to figure out.

By Robert J. Thomas
ISBN # 0966830407

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Extraordinary Board Leadership

This book builds on a lot of Carver's philosophies of board design, but is a lot more technical in nature, basically a technical retelling of Carver's stuff. Not that I wouldn't consider it useful, but it's not a page turner. It's the kind of thing you want when you're in the middle of the muck. Recap's Carver's definitions of a staff-level volunteer's "helpfulness interest" versus the board's "ownership interest". A big emphasis on planning.

Now, strategic planning, etc. seems to be going the way of all the world, or getting less popular at the very least. I was talking to some individuals from a large, impressive program at a huge trade association yesterday, and that seemed to be the feeling I got. If that is one's impression, then this book would be more of the same: hollow words with no action to back it up. But if you look at those kinds of plans as providing solid infrastructure on which to build your mission, then it'll be helpful from a technical perspective.

I say all that because one of the "exhibits" I found interesting from the book was this one:

Basically, I think this is useful because it tells the board 1) what it is accountable for and 2) what it can do to meet those responsibilities. I think a lot of problems that nonprofits experience come from the fact that people (being part of nature) abhor a power vacuum and will step in when there is unclarity or a lack of direction. Now, whether or not this is a *good* structure or provides *useful* boundaries for board members is up for discussion, but at least it's a starting place.

By Doug Eadie
ISBN # 0834217953

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Portable MPA

So, you know how there's all these really nice books called The Portable MBA or MBA in a Box (I actually looked at that one and it was pretty cool, if steeped a little long in theory). Well, I guess what I'm doing with this blog is coming up with my own Portable MPA. You know, I've looked at programs around town. I checked out American's program and talked with the folks and everything. I was very impressed. Trouble is, I need another degree like I need a whole in the head.

Still, I've decided to do Georgetown's Certificate Program as soon as I have the time and money. I feel like I need the ooomph of some formal training. Additionally, that ought to prepare me for the CAE examination which I plan to take.

In the meantime, this blog is reflecting my attempt to get my literature in me, and so I'm going to take the opportunity to record recommended reading I've found which I can then link to later. Yesterday I mentioned Stephen Block and I was trying to locate him online since I was impressed with the book Why Nonprofits Fail (like, it's easy to understand why the topic appeals when I'm overhearing my boss get of the phone with an INSANE board member who has no ethics whatsoever). I found a syllabus for a class that he teaches and I'm going to record the reading list recommendations below. The course is called "Nonprofit Boards of Directors and Executive Leadership," from a graduate-level class at the University of Denver where he teaches.

Stephen R. Block. Perfect Nonprofit Boards: myths, paradoxes and paradigms. Needham Heights, MA: Simon & Schuster, 1998. – Required

Stephen R. Block, Why Nonprofits Fail: Overcoming Founder’s Syndrome, Fundphobia, and Other Obstacles to Success. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2004. - Required

Already reviewed

John Carver. Boards That Make a Difference : A New Design for Leadership in Nonprofit and Public Organizations. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1997. -Required

Already reviewed

Robert Herman & Richard Heimovics. Board-Centered Leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1991. - Optional

Need to read

Cyril O. Houle. Governing Boards. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1989. (Or newer printing) -Required

Need to read

Here is the course synopsis, or "purpose of the course" which is useful too:

Governing a nonprofit organization requires leadership from individuals willing to oversee the execution of a complex set of responsibilities and assume, without compensation, legal liability for the actions of the organization. The important role and responsibility of a voluntary board of directors and the process of governing is often misunderstood. This course will focus on the special powers and responsibilities of a nonprofit board of directors and will distinguish the Board’s role from the leadership and management position of the executive director. The exploration will include an examination of the concept of governance, policy development, board composition, executive leadership, and other fundamental issues such as board meetings, liability, effective committees, executive leadership, the board's role in fundraising, and other relevant issues.

The other thing I notice about the syllabus is that he recommends that students go observe board meetings of two different nonprofit organizations (which is a fabulous idea), using the following questions to evaluate their experience:


Assignment: Describe and contrast the similarities and differences that you observed among the Boards of two different nonprofit organizations.

1. How many Board members were present? How many Board members were absent?

2. Where does the Executive Director sit in relation to the Board Chair?

3. What type of interaction was there between the Board Chair and Executive Director?

4. Did the meeting start on time/end on time?

5. What style of meeting management was used: Informal, formal, parliamentary?

6. How would you describe the composition of the Board?

7. What was the tone of the meeting and the interaction?

8. What nonverbal cues/communication did you observe during the meeting?

9. Did the Board agenda include items related to the organization’s strategic plan/issues/direction/Mission?

10. Was information distributed at the meeting that would have been better sent beforehand? Explain.

11. What type of leadership styles did you observe?

12. Who seems to have the most influence during the meeting? Explain.

13. Is the level of discussion meaningful?

14. Did it appear to you that board members were prepared for the meeting?

15. What involvement did the agency staff have during the meeting?

16. How were differences of opinions handled?

17. Was there any social time built into the meeting?

18. How would you characterize the relationships between the board members between each other and with the executive director?

19. Using the management roles adapted from Mintzberg (Chapter Four in Block, 1998), what roles were evident during the meeting?

20. Were there reports from Committees? If so, how were they received?

21. Were there a financial statement report? What types of questions were asked?

22. Did everyone participate during the meeting? Were some people silent? What did the Chair do to engage discussion?

23. How would you characterize the Board/Executive Director dynamics? Board Centered? Hierarchical? Explain.

24. What were you able to learn of the board’s governance practices: recruitment, planning, bylaws, etc?

25. What do you think were some of the motivating factors for some of the board members’ participation?

26. If you were to apply a motivational need among any of the board members,
what would that need be, and if you were the Executive Director how would you focus on that need?

27. Describe the competencies and challenges you observed in the executive director and/or board members.

28. What occurred during the meeting that surprised you?

29. If you were their board consultant, what advice/direction would you offer?

30. What policy discussions took place? Using Chait and Tailors 6 policy levels, what level policies were dealt with during the meeting? Was it appropriate for the board to be dealing with these policies at the Board meeting? Explain.

31. Was there involvement from the founding Chairperson, founding Executive Director, or members from the founding Board of Directors? If so, did they influence the content and process? Were there any identifiable issues with the use of power, control and privileges?

I will go and do this and record my experiences here. I don't know exactly whom I can go observe, so it may take me awhile, but I think it is a good exercise.

I've Seen a Lot of Famous People Naked and They've Got Nothing on You

Okay, I wasn't going to write this one up because I have to look at it on the margin of the page until it gets archived, but it seriously was pretty useful. The title is (surprise, surpise) a ploy. What he means is that famous people are real in the sense that they have real concerns and real problems. Their famousness or money does not take that away and in that sense, they are naked. The author is Jake Steinfeld of Body by Jake fame, and this book is not about fitness--it's about entrepreneurialism.

The book's subtitle is "business secrets from the ultimate street-smart entrepreneur." I don't know about the ultimate business, but it rings true that the book propounds very street-smart approaches to business, and cuts it down to its fundamentals, which is useful and inspiring. The book has lots of tips and checklists to help the budding entrepreneur. There's too much detailed information to take note of all of it, but I will probably refer to this book in the future with various projects I'd like to have happen.

By Jake Steinfeld
ISBN# 0814408605

Organizing from the Inside Out

This book is one of those books that has given me a language to talk about ideas I've had all along. Julie Morgenstern is a good writer and she has good systems for organizing. Basically, you want to make sure that "everything has a home," which is something of a mantra with me in the past year or so.

She tells the story of her epiphany when she became an organized person. Basically, I think I had the same experience--you realize that the only way to get what you want is to be more organized, i.e. you have to spend less time administering crap. I'm into organization because I am continually seeking a simplified lifestyle. Cutting the fat helps me do that.

Julie's steps can also be applied to organizations. (As witnessed by the fact that she is quite successful in business and entrepreneurial circles.) For example, her "attack" strategies of sort, purge, assign a home, containerize and equalize could just as easily be used as a business tool for organizational consulting. She has other checklists that I use as metaphors for other problems I encounter.

Basically, organization is a skill that applies to everything, and this book has been useful for me as I've come to learn that.

By Julie Morgenstern
ISBN # 0805056491