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