Your Process Improvement News for June 2022

Author: leekuntz

Your Process Improvement News for June 2022

June 16, 2022 | 3:40 pm

Success story: Transitioning from overwhelming growth to more capacity and invigorated employees

Situation: A community foundation CEO shared with me that her organization was growing, but the processes they had in place felt frail. She worried that employee turnover could create the risk of errors and reputation damage. Also, the foundation was moving slowly in performing essential services, such as issuing donor-advised fund (DAF) grants. This CEO knew the foundation had the opportunity for growth, but employees were burned out from regularly working overtime on both evenings and weekends. How could she lead the team to solve these challenges?

Approach: My first step was to introduce process improvement/transformation tools so staff and leadership could see what was actually happening. Then I provided a four-hour “Concepts Training” to project teams to build the foundation’s most powerful asset: their team. After that I coached a 24-hour process deep dive into the foundation’s DAF grants process.

Results: This approach enabled each project team member to learn the process. The team removed 40% of the process steps they had formerly used to issue DAF grants. In so doing, they decreased turnaround time and recaptured about 1,500 hours of staff time. Staff and leaders came to understand that every employee needed to be part of the solution. Now the team has both skills and will to replace FIMS. A delighted project champion commented that the work was done on time, on target, and on budget.

See a process deep dive happen: IPD Process Deep Dive Experience Video

What will your organization accomplish in the next four months?

Given that November marks the beginning of the big donation season, many philanthropic organizations have only the next four months to position themselves for success this year. Now is a great time to engage employees in solving pain points, creating capacity, and getting ready for the year-end donation season. Learn more: What Will Your Organization Accomplish in the Next Four Months?

Installing a new software system? A process map will create better outcomes for your organization

Recently, a software vendor told me that organizations considering a new software system would do well to supply their vendor with a detailed process map. Having such a map helps the vendor better address the organization’s needs and generate a more accurate quote. In four hours of work with your team, I can produce a process map that will help you achieve a better software outcome. Contact me to learn more.

Foundations Increase Impact through Operation

The past two years have been defined by disruption, causing some leaders to worry about overwhelming staff with process changes. In reality, however, thoughtfully examining and optimizing day-to-day organizational activities can actually help philanthropic and nonprofit organizations recapture time, improve accuracy, increase coaching, and otherwise enhance their community impact. Learn more in my article recently published in Candid’s Philanthropy News Digest. Change for good: How foundations can increase impact through operational improvements | The sustainable nonprofit | Features | PND (philanthropynewsdigest.org)

Hear Lee Speak – Lead Operations Transformation

MinnCAP Annual Conference, Willmar Minnesota
July 26, 2022, 1:30 to 2:45 pm
Minnesota CAP agencies: Learn more and register: MinnCAP Annual Conference 2022

What Will Your Organization Accomplish in the Next Four Months?

June 7, 2022 | 6:32 am

Many philanthropic organizations have only the next four months to position themselves for success this year. Given November marks the beginning the big donation season, that means there is only a limited window for completing this year’s agenda. Some organizations are focused on just surviving 2022. Others are engaging employees to solve pain points, create capacity, and get ready for the year-end donation season.

Challenges on the Horizon

Because of the far-reaching effects of the pandemic, this year promises to bring added challenges to the philanthropic sector. To be most productive and successful, you need to ask yourself several key questions: Are employees engaged? Do they have the skill and time to solve these challenges?

Return to Office: Just when remote work procedures are running well, many foundation staff are returning to the office. Once there, what process will they perform? Is the team ready to redesign processes for in-person success?

Regular Plus Special Programs: The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently reported that charitable giving is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels. That is good news for our communities, but it means philanthropic organizations need to be poised and ready to process those forthcoming gifts and grants. In addition to managing that workload, will your foundation continue to offer emergency assistance programs? Are social justice programs also on the agenda? How will your employees find time to do their regular work, plus take on any special programs?

System Replacement Goals: How are your systems holding up? With so much new technology available, did your organization include a systems change in its 2022 plan? Will it be in the 2023 plan? If new technology is on the horizon, where will you find the skill and time to redesign processes to ensure successful implementation?

Hiring in the Post-Pandemic Economy: More jobs are available as the economy regains its footing. Employees are taking advantage of new opportunities by changing jobs. As always, it’s challenging to find great candidates. How will you attract and retain good employees? How will you get new employees up to speed quickly so they can be productive when the end-of-year rush gets underway?

Pairing Challenges with a Solution

The consistent thread tying these challenges together is the need to engage employees in deciding how work gets done, create more capacity, and redesign processes for maximal effectiveness. Philanthropic organizations have successfully addressed these needs and achieved their goals through our process transformation coaching and training.

Learn more about our certified process skills in this blog post: Process Certification Helps Organizations Achieve the Results They Need. Whether it is through our hybrid approach or all in-person, we help employees learn how to work more efficiently and effectively. By actively engaging employees in identifying opportunities for improvement and creating solutions, we foster an organizational culture characterized by nimble skill and empowerment.

An Example

Recently a California foundation sponsored our training and coaching package. First, through our four-hour hybrid Think Differently Concepts Workshop™, we taught attendees how to spot work steps that were value-added and those that were a waste of resources. They learned to solve these pain points. Employee feedback on the training included the following comments.
• “I liked the exercises and examples pertaining to our organization specifically.”
• “I liked working in small groups with people from other departments, and having time for questions.”
After the training, Lee meet with leadership to design steps that will keep transformation skills in use.

Next, Lee coached this team in a deep dive into their gifts process. They took the process from 86 steps to 58 better steps while retaining strong internal controls. In the past, each pile of paper checks gifts was passed between staff 13 times. The team designed a new electronic, document-based process that cut handoffs in half. Error proofing is now a well-known and practiced skill.

The team will implement their new process before October so they can face the year-end donation season in a stronger position. Foundation leaders said that through this work, they expect to recapture capacity and deliver acknowledgements more quickly. They appreciated that the project was done on time and on budget. Said one leader about the combined training and coaching approach, “Lee used empathy, understanding and extensive knowledge of Community Foundations to help us streamline our process.” Added another leader, “We accomplished A LOT in a short time!”

In this blog post, learn more about how our training and coaching program works and why it is a worthwhile investment: This Year, Plan to Succeed!

What Will Your Organization Accomplish in the Next Four Months?

The very busy year-end donation season is coming soon. Rather than struggle through that hectic season, contact Lee Kuntz to learn what you can do reach your performance goals and thrive this year.

The Common Theme: Operations Change

April 11, 2022 | 1:11 pm

Process and operations improvement has continued despite the pandemic, according to our recent study of philanthropic foundations. Yet according to the survey, leaders are worried about staff readiness for more change.

Learn more about the challenges and opportunities uncovered in this survey through this executive summary. 2022 Operations Improvement Survey Results

Then hear detailed survey findings and the related solutions in our live, short, free, “About Transformation” webinars.

To see how we conduct an operations process deep dive, check out this deep dive video.

 

Invitation to Three Live, No-Cost Operations Improvement Webinars

January 24, 2022 | 6:58 am

Is your foundation looking to do more? Are employees stressed out? Are you looking at new systems? If you see any of these challenges, consider joining my firm for one of our live, no-cost webinars.

This About Operations Transformation series focuses on helping foundation leaders understand how they can improve work outcomes.

Webinar: Three Ways to Ready Operations Staff for More Change

(New webinar)

Registration Link

Thursday, February 17, 2022; 1:00–2:00 pm CT

Is your operations staff ready for more change?

Many operations employees—the people who are most accountable for implementing new ideas—are worn out and not ready to take on the challenges that inevitably accompany change. In this webinar, Lee Kuntz will share three ways to get operations staff ready to make positive, productive changes.

 

 

Webinar: Maximize New Software Investment and Success with Process Redesign—Three Case Studies

(Updated webinar)

Registration Link

Thursday, February 24, 2022; 1:00 pm–2:00 pm CT

Upgrading software? Maximize your investment and success with process redesign. When a foundation updates its software system, the purchase typically requires years of research and a financial investment that can run well into six figures. So it’s important to make the most of that purchase. In this live, no-cost webinar, you will learn the best practices for redesigning and maximizing business processes and practices during new system implementation.

 

 

Webinar: Your Next Operations Opportunities

(New webinar based on recent survey)

Registration Link

March 24, 2022, 1:00–2:00 pm CT

Operations—the work done to execute an organization’s mission—is critical to achieving success. In this webinar, you will hear how foundations have improved their approach to getting work done. Next, we will help you identify potential opportunities for maximizing how processes, people, and systems can lead to better outcomes and enhanced impact. Finally, we will explain the steps needed to achieve great results from operations and process improvement.

Experience an IPD Process Transformation Deep Dive

January 11, 2022 | 9:26 am

Operations—the work done to execute an organization’s mission—is critical to achieving success.

Are you looking to improve the operations outcomes of your organization? Are you looking to make service to your community better, faster or more impactful?

Our coached process deep dive helps teams see and solve their process pain points. They improve quality, reduce turn-around time and deliver more efficiently and effectively to their community. Experience our process transformation deep dive in this short video.

IPD Process Transformation Deep Dive Video Link

Invitation to participate: IPD 2022 Operations Opportunities Survey

December 28, 2021 | 11:46 am

Operations–the work done to execute an organization’s mission–is critical to success. Given this, Lee Kuntz of Innovation Process Design is conducting a ten-question operations survey. The purpose of the survey is to gather information to help philanthropic organizations identify their next opportunities maximize their people, systems and processes to improve their operations outcomes.

IPD 2022 Operation Opportunities Survey

 

This survey asks about changes organizations expect to make in 2022 and also looks back at the operations improvements organizations made during the pandemic. Because operations include people, processes, and tools, the survey questions cover each of these areas.

Are you a philanthropic operations leader interested in identifying your organization’s next operations opportunities and in helping others in the philanthropic sector? Then we invite you to share your expertise by answering this ten-question survey.

Lee and Innovation Process Design look forward to sharing the survey findings and analysis in a summary report and in webinars in 2022.

Three Ways Philanthropic Operations Create Community Impact

November 16, 2021 | 2:47 pm

Is your organization looking to make a bigger community impact? Your operations—that is, how work is done—can be a powerful contributor in accomplishing your organization’s mission.

Operate for Impact

For philanthropic organizations, the nuts and bolts of operations are what enable teams to award and deliver grants quickly, set up and service fund accounts accurately, and work effectively with their boards. Some organizations have discovered that fine-tuning these operations equips them to magnify their community impact.

These organizations function at their best when their processes, systems, and people are maximized. Here are three ways organizations can maximize to operate for impact.

Better service to the community. When an organization’s grantmaking work steps are consistently carried out as designed (including substantial error proofing), grants are issued accurately. Proactive operations staff make these grants in the manner that is best for grantees, whether electronically or with hard-copy checks. Having processes in place to verify email and postal addresses eliminates the need to reissue communications or follow up on missing grant payments. When organizations manage processes for accuracy and a high service level, everyone’s time and energy can be spent wisely.

Quicker turnaround. Most organizations spend hundreds of thousands—even millions—of dollars on technology. From my experience, few of them use more than half their system’s capabilities. Instead they rely on manual processes and system work-arounds, all of which slow the delivery of payments to grantees and receipts to donors. When payments and receipts do not go out on time, grantees and donors typically start calling to find out the status of their payment or donation. Fielding calls and tracking down an explanation takes precious time away from the main purpose of the philanthropic effort.

A grantmaker who makes best use of the available tools, such as leveraging templates in Outlook and creating system reporting rather than relying on manual work-arounds, gets grants and confirmations out the door fast. The donor or grantee’s focus on creating an impact continues without disruption.

Efficiency that creates lower administrative costs, enabling more community investment. Philanthropic work, whether related to program design or operations, is paid for by fund expenses. Therefore, greater internal costs mean higher fund expenses and less money available for making a philanthropic impact. Doing operations work more efficiently can help decrease internal costs. A key component to that efficiency is maximizing staff time.

Yet too often, operations staff are hired and then shown their desk and a pile of work. This may unwittingly imply that their role is less important than the functions carried out by program designers.
Nonprofits that support their staff by defining clear roles, providing purposeful training, and delineating business rules find that their staff gets work done faster and better. And not inconsequentially, their employees are satisfied, productive, and energized.

Improving Operations Achieves Impact

Grantmakers and operations staff working in finance, technology, human resources, and other areas have an important role to play in enhancing efficiency. By proactively managing and improving processes and making best use of systems, you can increase the philanthropic impact of your organization.

Learn more about how to enhance operation in this recently published article: Invest in your operations teams to drive your mission forward – PhilanTopic | PND | Candid

About the Author

Lee Kuntz is founder and president of Innovation Process Design, Inc. As a certified process coach, she provides process improvement training and coaching to help teams look at their work with new eyes, transform how work gets done, and create tangible results in operations efficiency and effectiveness.

Published article: Invest in Your Operations Teams to Drive Your Mission Forward

October 13, 2021 | 10:48 am

Many nonprofits and philanthropies have come under pressure to be more efficient and effective than ever before. Yet, the dollars just haven’t been invested to support the kinds of operations needed to carry out today’s heightened level of giving in addition to addressing emergency programs.

With organization’s planning and budgeting for the next fiscal year, now that is changing. Learn more in Lee Kuntz’s recently published article.

Invest in your operations teams to drive your mission forward

 

Community Foundation Creates Powerful Scholarship Program

September 20, 2021 | 10:51 am

Is one person in your organization performing a critical role, the responsibilities of which are not even known to others? Then you might appreciate this foundation’s success story.

Case Study: Community Foundation Creates Powerful Scholarship Program

Excellent Operations Help Deliver Community Impact

September 10, 2021 | 2:36 pm

Most philanthropic organizations take pains to carefully design and then redesign their mission, strategy, and programs. They, along with their board of directors, often hire strategic consultants and share best practices with like-minded organizations to frame their goals and objectives. Yet many spend little time improving their daily operations to deliver on these plans, even though community impact will happen only by doing so.

Importance of Operations

Sound planning without excellent execution is unlikely to produce the desired results. Operations—meaning how work gets done—is the key determinant of whether organizations succeed in accomplishing their mission. For philanthropic organizations, the nuts and bolts of operations are what enable teams to award and deliver grants quickly, set up and service fund accounts accurately, and work effectively with their board.

Not surprisingly, the majority of grantmakers’ resources are spent on operations. Our recent informal study showed only about 10% of employee time is used for mission, strategy, and program design. Yet 90% of employee time is spent on the operations to deliver on that planning. Yet in philanthropic organizations, little energy is spent maximize those operations resources.

Each full-time employee of a philanthropic organization works about 2,000 hours annually. Staff leaders can assign and manage that time in an efficient and effective way. Or they can assign employees to tasks that duplicate efforts and don’t add value. Either way, the money is gone and the community pays for that time through fewer grant dollars being spent.

Operations Skills

Operations success requires specific skills. These include focusing on details to produce desired results, practicing strong project and task management, solving problems effectively, and having a deep working knowledge of process management and improvement.

A great first step toward enhancing operations expertise is to identify employees with an operations aptitude, then provide them process management and improvement training. Our operations and process transformation training uses proven process methodologies to maximize what the organization already has to improve outcomes. We show attendees how to maximize work steps, technology, business rules, roles, training, and forms—all of which are components of operations.

As a result of our training and coaching during these deep-dive events, we see organizations achieving a greater understanding of the value of operations work. Their employees are also transforming how work is done, significantly reducing and improving the work steps to decrease turn-around time and improve community impact. Learn more through this case study describing how one team went from overwhelmed and delivering late to making a much greater community impact.

Philanthropic Sector Designs New Operations Roles

In my recent conversations with foundations, I have noticed a greater commitment to scrutinizing how work is done. This includes identifying staff to focus on monitoring operations outcomes while also managing processes and systems. Increasingly, grantmakers are redesigning roles to build in detailed operations accountabilities. We have seen three approaches to this intensified concentration on operations:

Identify an operations person in each major function: Some organizations are establishing operations accountabilities by naming a person in each area as the operations lead. For example, one philanthropy team includes a senior operations manager who “ensures the productivity and efficiency of the Philanthropic Services team while working across departments to improve cross-team collaboration and communication.”

Another organization employs an operations manager who “guides the development and implementation of efficient processes within the Community Programs team to maximize the team’s efforts toward racial and economic equity.” This same organization employs an operations manager in their finance area to deliver on the chief financial officer’s agenda. This operations manager “owns and drives Finance & Operations team planning, project management and process development. The role also is the primary liaison for Finance and Operations communication across teams and collaborates on cross-foundation operations initiatives.”

Hire a chief operations officer (COO): Some organizations are grouping functions that are highly operational into one leadership role. For example, one job posting noted that the COO “will work in alignment and harmony with the CEO and will be responsible for effectively managing the organization’s infrastructure, processes, human and financial resources.”

Another philanthropic group shared that the COO “leads the Information Technology, Grants Administration, Board governance, Human Resources, Organizational Development, Office Management, and business continuity functions.”

Add the management of operations to a senior leader’s responsibilities: Some organizations add “Operations” to the responsibilities of the chief financial officer (CFO) or another leader. One foundation’s description of its CFO and operations role includes: “Responsible for leading the Foundation’s financial reporting, risk management, budget, technology roadmap, and investment oversight.”

Another organization lists some responsibilities of the vice president of finance and operations as follows:

    • Oversee all financial, operational and personnel-related elements of the organization.
    •  Responsible for stewarding over assets and annual revenue focused on growth of philanthropic funds for ongoing community needs.
    • Provide management of and direction to finance and operations staff, and oversight of cross-departmental teams focused on staff engagement, mentorship and wellness opportunities.
    • As member of Senior Leadership Team provide strategic role in overall management of the foundation.

Moving Forward

Making a positive community impact is possible only when effective operational practices are in place. Foundations are now building their operations capabilities and accountabilities, enabling them to focus on both planning and operations successfully. Your organization can too. Contact Lee Kuntz to talk about the operations challenges you see at your organization.

Contact Lee today to discuss your challenge.