Many foundations and nonprofits receive the majority of their contributions during November and December. This makes for a busy donation season, which can result in employee stress and delayed responses to donors and grantees. Instead, some teams take one hour to conduct a process walk through, which enables them to thrive during this busy season.
The Best Practice to Create Capability
The volume of work during this time can overwhelm normally adequate processes and capacity. A way to create capacity and to firm up processes during the upcoming onslaught is to conduct a one-hour process walk through of any high-volume processes. This best practice reminds employees of how work needs to be done, identifies sticking points and engages the team in making backlogs visible and solvable.
An effective process walk through follows specific steps. Here is a link to my firm’s IPD Process Talk Walk through Best Practices. Feel free to print this document and use it during your process walk through.
And contact me with any questions or to talk about what you see during busy season. As a process coach and trainer, I have seen teams go from drowning to thriving during November and December. Your team can also.
Throughout the 23 years I have been a process improvement coach and trainer, I have learned that people are the most important factor in achieving process improvement success. Yes, methodologies, training, and tools are important. But engaging the people doing the work in a way that increases their readiness for improving the way they work is the most important element.
In a recent conversation with one of my clients, I was reminded of the power of engaging and readying staff for process improvement. This leader moved from the CFO role in one foundation to a similar role in another. Both foundations are huge and healthy with big growth ahead of them. This experienced leader had brought my firm in to the first foundation to help him create capacity to take on that big growth. He anticipated the busy season ahead and knew the workload would be unmanageable unless he took action.
During our training, we built both the skills and will to improve how work is done. See how this looks in this video: Energized, Inspired, and Engaged.
My firm also conducted a process deep dive with this leader’s team to recapture capacity in their donor advised fund (DAF) grants operations. See how a deep dive looks in this short video: IPD Process Deep Dive Experience. The team redesigned their process to cut the time to do a DAF grant by 40 percent. That meant delivering grants and confirmations faster to donors and freeing employees up to enjoy the year-end holidays.
Last month I reconnected with this leader to congratulate him on his new CFO role. He mentioned that he brought the language of process improvement with him to his second organization. He said, “We constantly look for and talk about finding unproductive tasks, exactly as I learned to do in your training.”
Because this leader identified the challenges ahead, learned key process transformation concepts, and took action to implement them, he has now been able to lead two teams to improve how work is done. As a result, both he and the two organizations he has worked for have streamlined their operations and increased employee satisfaction. You and your organization can achieve these favorable results too.
Contact Lee Kuntz at firstname.lastname@example.org if you see pain points in how your organization’s work is done or if you seek to improve the outcomes your organization delivers to your community.
About Lee Kuntz and Innovation Process Design
As founder and president of Innovation Process Design, Lee Kuntz has spent over two decades using process improvement to solve the unique challenges faced by leaders of complex service organizations. Through expert training and coaching, she helps teams look at their work with new eyes, transform how work gets done, and create real results. Contact Lee with questions or to talk about your situation and what you want to achieve.
Is doing more for your community one of your organization’s goals?
A community action agency (CAP) was working hard to address all the energy assistance requests from their community while tracking with funder regulations. The agency’s energy assistance department was draining funds from the rest of the agency rather than being self-sustaining as it was supposed to be. To compound these challenges, the team was going into energy assistance season down two staff. How was this team going to meet its community’s energy assistance needs with fewer staff, yet still perform well in the government’s regulatory audit?
The director of energy assistance met with IPD’s Lee Kuntz to share the team’s goals and challenges. Lee then recommended IPD’s four-hour Think Differently Concepts™ skill building workshop and a one-day coached deep dive into energy assistance processes and operations to help employees identify, accept, and solve the problems that were hampering their operations.
Lee then provided the training workshop and coached the fourteen-person energy assistance team through the one-day process deep dive. Through this work, the staff began to understand that operations pain points were caused by their poor process, not people. With this new understanding, the staff engaged, using their workshop time to identify the process steps that were essential and effective, and those that were not. This coached team reduced energy assistance application intake from 77 steps to 45 better steps. Then staff members generated numerous ideas on how to improve their energy assistance operations. After IPD handed off the project to the energy assistance director, who led the team in implementing the ideas over the next several weeks. IPD delivered what it promised on budget and on time.
As a result of IPD’s workshop and the team’s hard work, the agency was able to hit its regulator’s turnaround time deadlines with fewer staff, due to recapturing over 2,000 work hours, and at lower cost during the next energy assistance season. The team also received fewer regulatory audit comments. Now, the team continues to improve how it delivers energy assistance services to its community.
Is your organization installing new technology this year? You are not alone. About 50% of organizations are installing new software this year. And that is not about to change.
Given the cost of technology, managing new software installation and maximizing technology is now a core piece of organization work. Here is a story of one organization’s journey to build their skills to make software pay for itself.
To learn more about how today’s nonprofit is maximizing software, check out our newly published article: Bust these myths and save 2,800 hours in day-to-day operations.
Operations—the work done to execute an organization’s mission—is critical to achieving success.
Are you looking to improve processes and related 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 virtual and in-person process deep dive in this short video.
Operations process tip for the quarter: Look at each step of the work you do to see if that specific step adds value to your community. If it does not, consider whether this step can feasibly be improved or removed, thereby recapturing your time.
Workshop invitation: Process Transformation and Training Cohort Workshop™.
Is your foundation being held back by a process that no longer works as it should? If your answer to this question is yes, check out our next Process Transformation and Training Cohort Workshop™. It is an affordable way to improve the outcomes from your foundation’s processes. Contact Lee Kuntz with questions about the workshop.
See a process deep dive happen: IPD Process Deep Dive Experience Video
Newly published article: Bust these myths and save 2,800 hours annually in day-to-day operations: Software has become a significant expense for organizations. Yet even as they invest tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in software platforms, many fail to make a much smaller investment in an intensive process transformation, enabling them to maximize the benefits of new software, increase their positive impact in the community, and improve their skills so as to be prepared for future implementations of technology projects and tools. Read the full article at: Philanthropy news | PND.
How was your end-of-year rush? Did your team work long hours under significant stress? Did they struggle to keep up leading to complaints from their community? The good news is that your employees do not have to be pushed to exhaustion as they tackle year-end duties. Learn more: How Did Your End-of-Year Rush Go?
This year, plan to succeed! Use process improvement to transform outcomes: Is your organization planning and budgeting for the next fiscal year? Are you tired of fighting the same pain points year after year, such as overwhelming workloads, demands for better or faster results, or challenges in how to maximize costly technology? During this year’s budgeting and planning season, consider investing in a coached process deep dive to recapture capacity and solve pain points. This Year, Plan to Succeed!
Look at operations processes through the eyes of your community. What do they value? What do they need? Let that data guide your next steps.
I heard this from a community foundation CEO: “Processes at our organization feel frail. Things happen very slowly, such as our issuance of DAF grants. We have no capacity to grow. We need help in order to make successful changes.”
Lee listened, then brought tools so staff can see what is actually happening.
I provided our four-hour “Concepts Training” to this foundation’s project teams. First, I used several discovery tools to help staff understand where processes were breaking down. Then, through 24 hours of consultation, I coached a cross-functional team to redesign the DAF grants process. This team wanted the same great results for accounts payable, so I coached another team through the redesign of that process. Both teams are now implementing their new processes.
Both processes now contain fewer steps and are being accomplished much faster. The teams learned how to document each process and came to the realization that everyone is part of the solution. They became highly effective, cross-functional teams. This gave them the skills-and-will to replace their main operations system.
See a process deep dive happen: IPD Process Deep Dive Experience Video
May 8 – May 11, 2023. 1 pm – 4 pm CT each day
Community foundations can only fulfill their mission when their day-to-day operations function well. Is your foundation being held back by an operational process that is counterproductive or is causing frustration for staff, grantees or fundholders?
If your answer to this question is yes, please join our next Process Transformation and Training Cohort Workshop™. Learn more: About Process Transformation and Training Cohort Workshop™. Workshop limited to 4 foundations, so contact Lee Kuntz soon.
Does your organization face nearly overwhelming demand, yet you have limited resources or staffing to fulfill that demand? I am told that being under-resourced and understaffed is a common constraint for nonprofits. Despite such limitations, community action councils (CACs) are doing amazing work as the last line of support to address poverty in their communities. But their communities more help. Lead Operations Transformation to Increase Community Impact
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, my firm can produce a process map that will help you achieve a better software outcome. Contact Lee Kuntz to learn more.
Who in your organization has the power and responsibility to deliver consistent results to your community? Do these specific staff know that? Recently, as part of our sector survey, we found that community foundations and nonprofits are transitioning from traditional operations roles to new ways of delivering better, more consistent results to their community. Learn more: Refine Operations Roles and Responsibilities to Increase Community Impact
Change for Good: Improve How Work is Done to Solve Pain Points and Recapture Capacity
December 1, 2022 @ 1:00 pm–2:30 pm EST
This presentation is a Midwest Webinar Series event sponsored by the Indiana Philanthropy Alliance, Philanthropy Ohio, and the Council of Michigan Foundations. Members of any of these organizations are invited to register through their organization. Learn more: About Midwest Series Webinar.
Who in your organization has the power and responsibility to deliver consistent results to your community? Do these specific staff know that?
Recently, as part of our sector survey, we found that community foundations and nonprofits are transitioning from traditional operations roles to new ways of delivering better, more consistent results to their community. Learn more of the survey finding in this executive summary. Innovation Operations Survey Summary.
In this blog series, you will read how foundations and other nonprofits are changing roles, responsibilities, and how they support staff to serve their community with greater impact. I will share ways your team can meet and exceed community and program needs with the resources you have now. Organizations that use these approaches are finding that their staff members feel engaged and empowered. And when communities are being served more effectively and efficiently, boards are satisfied. Would such outcomes be valuable to you?
All organizations have two aspects to their work: what they do (their strategy) and how they do it (their operations). Strategy has long been seen as the driver of community impact. Yet every organization has an opportunity to fulfill its mission more productively by focusing on improving operations, or how work is done.
Learn more about these two aspects in our recent blog article: Lead Operations Transformation to Increase Community Impact.
Operations has several levers to improve how work is done. One is how we assign and support work roles.
Early in my career, I worked with two giant companies, Cargill. and American Express. Leaders in both companies coached staff in how to approach tasks in an efficient manner to achieve the desired outcomes. Whether they used Lean Operations, Six Sigma, or Operational Excellence, these well-run companies maximized the quantity and quality of their work through proven methodologies. By effectively implementing these methodologies, they experienced a high customer retention rate and overall success. When surveyed, their customers said they felt good about their experience with the company.
A component of these organizations’ success was clear accountability about who did which tasks and how they did them. This accountability was reflected in the use of the word operations in their role titles. For example, titles such as vice president of service operations, director of technology operations, and manager of investment operations made it abundantly clear that these individuals were charged with ensuring that day-to-day work done and that the expected outcomes were achieved.
Now, according to my firm’s recent survey, some foundations and other nonprofits are starting to incorporate operations into their job titles and responsibilities just like for-profit entities.
Some organizations are defining accountability for services to the community at the C-suite level. For example, in a community foundation, operations responsibility could include issuing grants, setting up new funds, or processing donations. In a community action agency, a nonprofit that delivers government-sponsored services to community members, an operations leader could be accountable for managing and delivering the expected outcomes for Head Start, transportation services, or energy assistance services. C-suite leaders with operations responsibilities may have a title such as chief operations officer or chief financial and operations officer.
In addition, some complex nonprofits have an operations person in each area of the organization. These people are accountable for getting work done, managing processes and systems, and resolving how they support staff success. Examples include the following roles:
• Donor relations operations
• Program operations
• Finance operations
• Technology operations
Given that operations staff are accountable for doing the work that produces outcomes from each process, they need specific training that will build their skills in systems, process, and change management.
Systems skills: Operations doers must have a deep knowledge of your systems in order to make daily work happen and to troubleshoot emergency issues quickly. For example, if a customer has a complaint, the operations person must be able to use the organization’s technology to unpack what happened and resolve the problem swiftly.
Process skills: Our operations staff manage and monitor the steps of work, while improving those same steps when needed. Managing and monitoring processes to ensure every work step is done as designed is how we deliver a consistent experience to the community. This quality management work and the related skills are the cornerstone of the world-renowned ISO certification and are critical technical skills needed in our sector. Another important process skill is successfully and efficiently improving how work is done. Therefore, managing, monitoring and improving processes are important skills for every operations person.
Change management skills: Doers are accountable for getting work done and for improving the steps of work. Therefore, they need two types of change management skills: task (or project) skills and competence in gaining alignment on changes. These skills are very different than those needed to design programs or foster positive community relations. Therefore, it is important to screen for these skills when hiring and to coach operations staff on how to build these skills once employed.
Savvy doers need to continuously strengthen and broaden their skills, because technology, sector opportunities, and characteristics of the community continuously change. That means you need to budget for training employees on process management and improvement, project management, and human change management, as well as use of your organization’s technology resources.
Learn more about my firm’s process improvement and management training here: Innovation Process Design Services – Process Improvement Training
Refining roles and responsibilities to improve how work is done can help you get more work done. Once operational roles are clearly delineated, your employees can deliver faster and better service to the community. They can recapture capacity and open the door to the next program or level of service. Foundations and nonprofits are taking these steps and experiencing success as a result. You can too.
As founder and president of Innovation Process Design, Lee Kuntz has spent over two decades using process improvement to solve the unique challenges faced by leaders of complex service organizations. Through expert training and coaching, she helps teams look at their work with new eyes, transform how work gets done, and create real results. Contact Lee with questions or to talk about what you see and what you want to achieve.
Does your organization face nearly overwhelming demand, yet you have limited resources or staffing to fulfill that demand?
I am told that being under resourced and understaffed is a common constraint for nonprofits. Despite such limitations, community action councils (CACs) are doing amazing work as the last line of support to address poverty in their communities. But our communities need more help.
In this blog series, you will read how CACs are engaging staff to change how work is done, resulting in a bigger community impact. I will share with you ways your team can meet and exceed community and program needs with the resources you have now. CAC employees who use these approaches are feeling engaged and empowered. Boards are satisfied and communities are being served at a new level. Would those outcomes be valuable to you?
All organizations have two aspects to their work: what they do and how they do it.
Both are important and both are needed to make an impact on the communities that they serve. Now let’s look at each side of the organizations’ work.
What we do: This aspect consists of the services an organization offers. What we do is based on decisions we think long and hard about. We test them. We adjust them. They are important. Collectively, these decisions about an organization’s mission guide the development of that organization’s strategy. Generally, people think that strategy creates community impact.
How we do it: How we execute that strategy or how we do work is also important. It relates to how we deliver services. This is generally considered operations. We spend about 90% of our time and resources on operations. Therefore, the how is important.
Looking at organizations through the lens of strategy and operations is common in for-profit organizations. Many have a chief operations officer who is accountable for how the work gets done. For-profit organizations typically have operational titles and roles at the director, manager, and individual contributor levels. These organizations understand the power of the how.
Within CAC agencies, decisions about strategy and tactics are made by CAC leaders in conjunction with the board. For example, some energy assistance programs offer three levels of energy support as shown below.
The specifics of an organization’s operations are determined by the agency’s staff. They design how work should be done. In this example, the five steps describe how an agency might provide the various levels of support to its clients.
Given my experience and certifications, I see myself primarily as an operations coach and trainer. I help teams put good ideas into practice. I believe CAC employees are the right people to improve how processes and operations happen. With strong process improvement skills, they can achieve impressive results for their community. I have seen it over and over again. Working with teams to enhance their skills-and-will to do work better and deliver impact is my passion and my vocation.
The good news about operations is that we have tools and approaches to make processes work well and deliver great outcomes, with the primary goal always being to maximize community impact. These levers include work steps, equipment, roles and responsibilities, training, forms, and internal rules.
Regulations may mandate the forms you use, yet it is these six operational levers that can help you maximize your impact in the community.
I recently worked with a CAC transportation team to help them better leverage their six operational levers. Through process training and then a one-day deep dive, the CAC team determined that they could improve their ride intake process and outcomes through maximizing use of their existing tools, adjusting roles and responsibilities, retraining request intake staff, rethinking their internal policies, and simplifying work steps. As a result of the team’s work, they quickly implemented their new mobile vaccination van, employing new processes to deliver an improved rider experience.
All nonprofit organizations, including CAC teams, can improve their operations to provide more services and generate greater impact for their community. If your organization is experiencing unlimited demand with limited resources, you have the opportunity to look at your operations to improve outcomes. Other organizations are expanding their community impact by leveraging these six operational levers. You can too.
Learn more about improving operations through our next blog post, or contact Lee Kuntz to discuss your unique situation.
Use Process Improvement to Transform Outcomes.
Is your organization planning and budgeting for the next fiscal year? Are you tired of fighting the same pain points year after year, such as overwhelming workloads, demands for better or faster results, or challenges to maximize costly technology? During this year’s budgeting and planning season, consider investing in a coached process deep dive to recapture capacity and solve pain points.
Create a Plan that Succeeds
This is planning and budgeting season for about 30% of the organizations I know. Even with today’s unusual times, many are creating concrete plans and budgets to solve their pain points this year and beyond. If they do not, organizations will experience the same old pain and frustration they have in the past.
Organizations that help and serve others are recapturing hundreds—even thousands—of hours of capacity. They are serving their customers, community, board, funders, and donors in half the time. They are retaining employees. Their secret? Investing to transform processes and results.
Most of us have done process improvement. We have tweaked processes and resolved breaks. Some organizations are taking their improvement work to a transformational level. They are cutting their work steps in half and delivering to their key partners in fraction of the time. They are freeing up thousands of staff hours that can be used for other purposes.
These organizations budget for an investment in process transformation training and a coached deep dive during their annual planning. Here are the results they are achieving.
• Recapturing over 4,000 work hours.
• Sharing services across functions.
• Maximizing expensive technology.
• Remaining error-free for 3 years.
• Delivering to customers in half the time.
Does it work? In a survey of process redesign results, our customers cut their process work steps by 52%, improving quality and speed while recapturing time. Figure 1 illustrates the before and after steps of several organization’s redesigned processes.
Figure 1: Process Change with Process Transformation
In addition to achieving this enviable result, these leaders are committed to building a culture of ongoing improvement. They can easily fix and improve any process and result because they have learned the tools to see and solve transformation opportunities. Their employees are fully invested in the process transformation game because they have been involved as stakeholders since the inception of the training.
Here is a case study about one team’s journey: Case Study: Community Foundation Creates Powerful Scholarship Program
Invest in Building Process Improvement Muscle
Leaders are bringing the story of process transformation to their organizations’ annual planning discussions. Yet a common question is: What does the initial investment consist of?
The initial investment in transformational process improvement includes two components: dedicated staff time for learning and implementing new approaches and out-of-pocket costs for training and coaching.
A typical employee will spend between 5 and 40 hours annually doing successful process transformation.
The out-of-pocket cost of the training and coaching depends upon the amount, level, and number of hours needed. Our training to help teams think and act differently includes our live online or onsite 4-hour Concepts and our 4-hour Tools think differently process transformation training. After the training, we coach your team either onsite or live online to use their new process skills to dramatically improve a key process. These process team coaching sessions are between 20 and 30 hours together.
Plan to Solve Pain Points in the Coming Year
Organizations that train their employees in process transformation find that work gets done faster and with fewer errors. The time saved leads to better service to the organizations’ customers and community, and greater job satisfaction among employees. You can, too! Contact me, Lee Kuntz, to learn more about how your organization can plan to solve pain points and thrive.