I know it is great to talk about opportunities, about fighting weaknesses, it feels so empowering. But let’s face it, before you go any further you need to know if you have what it takes. And that can mean so many different things! Your resources are what will determine if you can get your ship (or tiny boat) from A to B. It’s what allows you to make things happen.
It goes from having the right people, to establishing the right processes, invest in the right technology and even design the best organizational structure. I know, it sounds so not cool to put in an Instagram story. But indeed much needed to ensure you can actually execute on your strategy.
So let’s go through it, in no particular order!
The question to answer is – are you efficient in what you do? When starting, we often scrape and build things on top of each other. It is not common that we take a step back to evaluate the tower we are building. If it came in the shape of a Lego we would know it would be about to stumble. So before going any further, adding new business lines, hire new team members or even engaging in cost cutting take a deep look at your business operations and processes. They are a resource like any other.
A few years ago, we finally decided to implement Salesforce at the charity. We had spent years managing donours on an access database. It was clunky, detail updated manually and it had no easy record of interactions. As we expanded our number of sponsors and children, we knew it was time to invest and automate a lot of our processes such as membership renewal reminders, receipts, school reports, birthday reminders. All were simple things individually but put together a mammoth enterprise.
So as you established yourself, did you think front to back watching that your processes run smoothly? Or are you creating more problems than you are solving as you grow? Did your organization grow so much that you barely know where to start to find where your true bottlenecks are?
Sometimes, the only solution is to sit and draw it in a piece of paper, as if you were starting from scratch. I know you won’t, especially if you are in a big place. But just imagine for a second you are. With that, you can see where you are versus where you could be. And even if you don’t make a radical change from A to B you can still make incremental pilot steps to get you there. Are you as passionate about efficiency as you are about revenue?
The next question is less about process and more about structure. How are you organized? Assuming your organization is more than you, is it clear who helps you advance towards these ultimate goals you are trying to establish? In the beginning of organizations, it is typical to add org chart boxes as you try and outsource parts of your own function. Then maybe you adjust functions to the people you hire and the skillsets they have. But there is a time where you want to draw the org chart of the company you want to be in the future, irrespective of what it is today. Don’t try and put names to functions, first just put functions. And draw reporting lines as they are and as they should be, as eventually not all the company will be reporting into you!
I must say I have drawn 2 organizational charts for my own charity in the last 2 months. Admittedly, none of them was truly correct. I am still working on them to define how we need to be organized and how we will make changes to get there. As I work through org chart #3 and try and dissociate functions from people, it gets easier to assess what the organization should be. For instance, I have always separated sponsoring and projects. I considered them very different but recently one of our board members argued why this was the case. Fundraising is fundraising, whether for annuities or for regular or large donours. Project implementation is project implementation, whether for monthly food basket distribution or for monthly pre-schools. I thought it was an interesting perspective.
If you are in a big company you will need to look at that monster that always ends up growing out of control – silos. And your ability to break them. So resources can be used more efficiently.
100 million dollar question. Do you have the right people to execute? Are you set up for the talent you need to hire or develop? Do you even have talent development? Sometimes, all we do is survive and, as such, everyone chips away in the same direction (or around that). But as we look into new opportunities or really give up on areas that are not working, some re-setting of the skillset may be needed. You may not need to change people, but you need to tool them differently. What is driving your people strategy?
On the other hand, if you are thinking of growing the team in a more structured way, I would recommend you sit down with job descriptions. After you have done the org chart in the point above. Then try to describe what people do in comparison with prior job descriptions they may have had. Also try to draft new job descriptions that are aligned with where your gaps are. Scary right? It is only when you get to details that you can really figure out what you wish someone would do but there is no-one there to do it. Or even what you wish someone would do but you never really asked. I know it is awkward to think of people as resources, but in your team, they are. And they can be your greatest assets.
This week, I will spend some time going through workflows for my new CA team. Whilst I have a rough view of what people do, the truth is, most established companies may not necessarily have a job description handy to tell you everything people do. And this team in fact interacts with multiple teams in the division and beyond. As such, the only way to figure out how to best set the team up for growth (because I think there is growth to be had) is to ensure a full understanding of what is getting done, (the processes) and who is doing what.
In today’s day and age, it even feels weird to split this into a separate point from any business strategy. Technology is business in so many places. But in fact, in many traditional businesses this is not the case. Whether we are talking about the technology to deliver a product, to reach out to customers, to process the back-end production or to manage the team, technology is everywhere. Are we embedding it right, or is it just a side thing that no-one really bothers about? Who is thinking about it? Sometimes, technology is but a resource discussion. That is not the right approach. Technology decisions need to be embedded at the core of your strategic business decisions.
I like to consider myself a bit of a tech-geek. But I recognise the risk to first mover advantage, especially if I am not the one embedded in the day to day. However, a few good things can happen when you look at your operations, processes and people and find automation and digitalization opportunities. A few examples?
On my last 1on1 with my VP of projects in Mozambique, she was describing how she was organizing the data collection for a new project dedicated to supporting girls remotely. She was already anticipating the difficulties with our local mentors filling in an excel spreadsheet on their mobile phones, their only resources. I then remembered having just used Microsoft Forms for our 360 reviews and how that could work, with the choices limited and standard and the format mobile friendly. In no time we went to set up a new approach bringing technology to significantly improve the way we work and, as such, improve the impact on the ground.
It does not look like a lot, but I estimate this would be multiple of hours of work per month for everyone involved in the project, and more importantly, lots of frustration and incomplete or unreadable data. With technology, you can remove the hurdles and improve data quality. We only thought of it because we had taken 30 minutes of our month to talk about what works and what does not work. Our own little CEO moment.
Resources in hand.. move forward
Growing up is hard I know. Wouldn’t it be great if we dreamt up a new product and it would fall into place like a glove? Some start-ups build themselves up like that from the get-go. But that is unfortunately not yet the reality in many other places. So if you are ready to grow, arm yourself with your best shot, or shall I say, with the best resources you can get!Photo by Robby McCullough on Unsplash
If you have missed the worksheet on Looking for Opportunity on Part I of this series, you can get it here!