Saturday, February 20, 2010

How is Your Organization’s Operational Equilibrium?

This is the third and final post in a series of three posts on Organizational Equilibrium, written by Non-Profit Consultant, Derek Link. Parts 1 and 2 were posted on February 16 & 18, 2010.

Operations that are out of balance can compromise the accomplishment of the mission through waste and duplication of effort. In this post, the various activities an organization undertakes to carry out its mission are what I am defining as operations. Key factors that can lead to operational imbalances are 1) lack of adequate internal planning, 2) lack of collaboration, 3) inadequate feedback loops.

Strategic planning to accomplish a mission includes identification of critical success factors. Factors commonly include things like raising enough money, employing the right people, or recruiting the right Board members. In order to make sure that the organization has the capacity internally to accomplish its mission, all critical success factors must be identified then activities and feedback loops must be put into place to make sure each one is attended to. Missing a critical success factor can compromise the mission. For example, in planning to cook and distribute hot meals to seniors, nobody was assigned to gas up the van and by the time the gas card was located, the van taken to the gas station, and the food delivered, it all got cold or it spoiled.

An organization that operates in isolation may duplicate effort and thereby waste resources. Using the senior meal example again, what if an organization decided to deliver Thanksgiving meals to seniors this year but didn’t ask any other organizations in the area if they were going to do the same? Suddenly a senior may receive more than one hot meal on the same day while other seniors may have gone without. Collaborative planning can keep such operational imbalances from happening.

Disequilibrium in operations occurs when planning is inadequate and this can compromise the mission. A key mistake that causes operational disequilibrium is lack of feedback loops. Feeding seniors is a good thing but if food is delivered they don’t want, can’t eat, or which requires preparation they can’t accomplish, then food is wasted. But if nobody asks the seniors what they need, want, and can handle, then the mission is compromised by lack of feedback and an operational imbalance is created. In this case, the actual need isn’t being met because feedback from the recipients of services isn’t being collected and used to refine operations.

In order to have a balanced operation, the organization’s activities must be effectively executed, effectively coordinated, and accurately targeted. Organizations must engage in detailed planning that attends to every critical success factor. Organizations must collaborate with other organizations that have similar missions in order to make sure they are being efficient and avoiding duplication of effort. Finally, operations must be designed to meet the real need, not the perceived need. By attending to these three factors, organizations can successfully accomplish their mission.

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Creative Resources and Research is a consulting firm specializing in grant writing, grant seeking, program evaluation and professional development training. We have worked with hundreds of clients including public and private schools, school districts, universities, non-profit organizations, and social service agencies throughout California, securing over $155 million from federal, state and private foundation funding sources over the past decade. Our primary grant writers and program evaluators have over 50 years of combined experience in the education and social services fields. At CRR we prefer a personal approach to the clients we work with; by developing long term relationships, we are better suited to match client’s needs with available funding sources. We provide a variety of services to help assist you, including grant writing, evaluation consulting, professional development opportunities, and workshops.