Guest Blogger, Paul Stock: Challenging Times Can Sharpen Focus

Man holding focused lens

The recent budget wrangling and subsequent decisions can prompt the nonprofit sector in one of two directions; panic and complaining or driving us to greatness. I believe the sector by its very nature will choose the latter. My experience across the entire nonprofit sector has been that you are here to serve Delawareans and make lives better…and that won’t stop regardless of the hand you are dealt. Circumstances may limit the scope of what we can do, but they will not stop us.

Principles of Greatness
That said, why do I see the current circumstances as an opportunity to sharpen our focus and lead us toward greatness? I see them that way because I am reminded of what we learned as a sector from Jim Collins in our 2015 Annual Conference. “Good to Great” principles of greatness were presented to us at the conference and clearly stated in Collins’ monograph Good to Great and the Social Sectors which every organization in the sector received. We were challenged to focus on what our individual organizations are “best at” “passionate about” and how our resource engine tied to those two characteristics. Whatever your mission, you have something that you are passionate about and best at. With resources now being reduced, we are forced to focus still more.

Stop Doing List
One of the activities of Collins’ “great” companies that outperformed their peers in the same environment was their use of a “stop doing list.” This is a good practice whether resources are flush or limited. What things are each of us doing in our organizations which are not “core” to what we are best at and passionate about? What activities are not core to our missions? In times of resource shortages, these are targets of opportunity to help us focus on what matters.

Hedgehog Concept
For those of you familiar with Collins’ work, you will recognize that I have just described the hedgehog concept as principles of greatness. While not something any of us hoped for, the current environment can be useful to us and help us refine our organization’s hedgehog and tighten up our focus and activities. Focusing on the intersection of these three circles leads any organization toward greatness.

Informing the Legislature
This tightening of focus and activities will undoubtedly result in a narrowing of effort and impact for some of us. Activities that are within the mission but not the core of our mission may need to be eliminated. To help the legislature understand the impact of their funding decisions, the nonprofit sector must record the services that were eliminated and the reductions in the number of people served. It is this quantifiable impact which will help legislators make more informed decisions in next year’s and future year’s budgets. Please share your stories and information with DANA. We are committed to aggregating this information and advocating for the sector.

Help is Available
Consultants in our Excellence Academy are available to help you refine your hedgehog and measure the impact of the changes forced by the budget reductions. Please feel free to contact me at [email protected] for assistance and please share your information about the impact of the budget reductions with Melissa Hopkins, Vice President of Sector Advancement, at [email protected].

Helping you succeed defines our success,
Paul Stock