Case Study: Formalizing Management
Helping a private non-profit become professionally managed
Small, 20 employees serving 20,000 children
Moving from Entrepreneurial to Professional Management
Situation: A 30-year old, successful non-profit organization was faced with the need to address succession planning for its founders. The organization began with a vision of providing recreational experiences for under-served middle school girls. Two prominent individuals—one a successful developer and the other a well-known celebrity—created the organization. The non-profit developed into a year-round, statewide organization serving more than 20,000 children in a variety of recreational and educational venues. The organization was managed loosely with an emphasis on relationships and the overall mission of helping children. Although the founders have been modest about their role in the growth of the organization, this modesty also keeps them from accurately acknowledging their involvement as key to its success. As a result, they have minimized the importance of succession planning and the need to establish a clear structure and well-defined processes for sustaining the long-term success of the organization. The founders employed the services of MBEC to assist in gaining a better understanding of the current state of the organization and the direction in which to proceed.
The MBEC Difference
MBEC worked with a successful non-profit to move beyond its informally managed organization and create a plan for its long-term vision, establish clear lines of authority and accountability, and address succession planning.
- Executive Interviews: The consulting process began with an interview of the three executives—the two founders and their handpicked Executive Director. These interviews served to frame the consulting project and to get an understanding of the perspectives of the management team.
- Understanding Current State: The data gathering consisted of interviews with, and evaluations of, senior staff—all of which were department heads. Evaluation feedback was provided to each individual, in addition to a three-way meeting with the Executive Director. Each of the department heads created an Individual Development Plan for their professional growth. Interviews focused on better understanding the organization’s structure, processes, strengths, and weaknesses. The result of the interviews and assessments was a consolidated summary document addressing vision, structure, processes, and people.
- Initial Recommendations: The collective data, with specific recommendations, was presented to the Executive Team as an initial interpretation of the data. Consistent with earlier executive interviews, the organization was seen as casually and loosely managed, with an emphasis more on relationships than on clarity of vision, expectations, or accountability. Almost to the person, individuals very much enjoyed working in the organization but felt a lack of clarity regarding the future vision, succession planning, expectations, and reporting relationships. A team-building retreat was recommended in order to present the evaluation data, assist the team in their communication, and allow time for the team to review the initial recommendations.
- Team Building: An offsite team-building retreat was facilitated in which team members presented their evaluation results, focusing on their communication patterns. By better understanding their own and their colleagues’ communication and behavior, the group was able to collectively begin operating in a more effective manner. In addition, the group was able to validate earlier findings about the vision, structure, and process of the organization, adding their unanimous desire to have team-building events more often!
- Final Recommendations: The executives were faced with the question of how to maintain the enjoyable and relaxed culture of the organization, while at the same time putting a more professionally managed structure in place. The focus of the recommendations included having greater clarity of vision and of expectations, along with processes for holding employees accountable. The final recommendations made to the three executives included the following.
- Develop succession planning for all executives
- Develop and articulate a long-term vision, including a vision for post-debt retirement plans
- Establish clear lines of authority from the Executive Director, both downward and upward
- Take a strong look at one of the programs that was marginal
- Review the vision and leadership for the educational program
- Review legacy processes to determine their ongoing viability
- Invest in training and team building to enhance staff capabilities
- Establish processes for cross-organization communication and collaboration
- Create clearer and more effective job and performance expectations, including individual objectives and accountability
Outcome: The executive team took the recommendations seriously and has begun making several of the changes recommended. Specifically, the creation and articulation of a long-term vision, the establishment of clearer lines of authority and accountability, and the viability of their failing program are all being addressed. As with many founder-managed organizations or companies, the issue of succession planning continues to be difficult to address.