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.
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.
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 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.
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:
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.
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 2021. Others are engaging employees to solve pain points, create capacity, and get ready for the year-end donation season.
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 2021 plan? Will it be in the 2022 plan? If new technology is on the horizon, where will you find the skill and time to ensure successful implementation?
Hiring in the Post-Pandemic Economy: More jobs are starting to be available as the economy regains its footing. Employees are starting to take 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?
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.
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 foundation leaders 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!
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.
Many consultants offer process improvement services alongside their other services, but a consultant who is certified in proven business process improvement methods can help your team reach ambitious goals most effectively. A certified process improvement consultant can help you achieve significant, measurable results such as recapturing capacity and realizing a faster return on new system investment.
Business process improvement methodologies are all about transforming how work is done to improve outcomes. These approaches range from the latest techniques to traditional methods, some of which have been around for almost a hundred years.
Each of these methodologies produces desired results when used as designed. However, not all these industrial engineering techniques and tools work in every situation. For example, Six Sigma makes use of significant statistical tools that are great for challenges encountered at manufacturing companies, but they are of little value to service organizations. Yet the process control component of Six Sigma is valuable to any organization looking to deliver consistent results. The key is to identify and use the right methodology and tools for the challenges at hand.
Some professional certifications have a strict, common definition. For example, the AICPA governs the Certified Public Accountant designation, setting standards that are respected around the nation. Passing the CPA examination was a proud moment in my life, because the certifying exam was so difficult.
In contrast to public accounting, where the content is clearly defined by a single entity, becoming certified in business process management requires demonstration of competency in multiple disciplines. These disciplines overlap each other, as shown below.
Figure 1: Methodology Overlap
The training and certification exam for each methodology includes tools that are not taught or tested in the other disciplines. For example, the American Society for Quality includes only a handful of Lean operations tools in its Six Sigma Lean Operations Black Belt training and certification. The Lean Institute makes use of only a few Six Sigma tools in its program. For most of these methodologies, people seeking certification must prove their mastery through education, testing and, at times, the submission of completed projects that demonstrate their competency.
Business process management certification is important for several reasons. First, it represents independent verification of the applicant’s knowledge and skills. Certification serves as confirmation that the applicant has learned and mastered techniques.
Second, certification supports achieving significantly better outcomes, which is critical as process improvement success is judged on the results achieved. These significantly better outcomes could be fewer errors, higher quality, faster outcomes, a better experience for customers, or a new system installation that pays for itself in two years.
The chart below chart illustrates transformational results some of your colleagues in the philanthropic sector achieved when they used our certified process improvement services. Process steps were reduced and improved. Quality and speed were improved.
Figure 2: IPD Certified Process Improvement Impact
Innovation Process Design (IPD) can teach your team the business process management skills you will need to identify process improvement opportunities on an ongoing basis. By developing proficiency of your own, you will not be dependent upon a consultant to make continual progress.
As IPD’s lead trainer and coach, I am certified, trained, and skilled in Lean operations, Six Sigma, human-centered design, project management, and public speaking. Our team’s depth and breadth of tools and experience enables us to select the tools and approaches that best address your specific challenges and goals. We have extensive experience helping philanthropic organization achieve significantly better outcomes. Our successful track record means you can complete process redesign faster, more efficiently, and with better results. Learn more about these results in these case studies.
Business process management certification matters. Other organizations have experienced the advantages and results that certified process improvement brings. Your organization can too. Contact me, Lee Kuntz, to learn more.
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 process transformation 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 in 2021. If they do not, organizations will experience the same old pain and frustration in 2021.
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 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 coaching during in their annual plan. 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 customer 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.
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. Contact me to learn more about training and coaching options.
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.
The pandemic has caused disruption to many organizations. The top priority for every organization has been finding ways to operate safely. Some also seek the capacity to do even more: more emergency assistance for their community; more internal and external social justice work; more services to donors. And they need to accomplish these goals in a safe, employee-friendly way.
To address these needs, we now deliver process transformation services virtually, in-person, or in a hybrid format.
Process transformation, unlike process improvement, goes beyond tweaking work steps. It entails a total overhaul to the way work is done. Some consultants produce rudimentary improvement, but a certified process specialist identifies approaches and provides tools to recapture significant capacity. Innovation Process Design (IPD) is certified in proven operations improvement methodologies, including Lean Operations, Six Sigma, and Human Centered Design. We know how to tailor our approach to each organization’s unique mission and circumstances.
As a result, over the last twenty years, clients who have engaged our Think Differently Process Transformation™ services have achieved dramatic reductions in work steps in key areas, as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Impact of Process Transformation
By reducing and improving work steps, nonprofits recaptured significant amounts of time, which they invested in new programs that have increased their community impact. Board meetings are more productive and require a fraction of the preparation time that had been invested before. Payments are made without delay, better supporting grantees’ needs. Donor gifts are confirmed in a faster and more efficient manner. Learn more about organizations’ process transformation results here: Process Improvement Case Studies.
In order for process transformation to be successful, staff members must be actively and safely engaged. IPD has had years of experience conducting transformation events in a variety of settings: in-person, virtual, and through a combination of the two. Our prior experience made it an easy transition to offer our clients three ways to engage in process transformation. The advantages of each option are detailed in Figure 2.
Figure 2: IPD Services Channels
Engaging in an in-person deep dive to transform processes is a powerful experience. Yet this face-to-face experience requires committing staff to several full, consecutive days of in-person meetings. Since all-staff in-person meetings are highly unlikely for several months, waiting for in-person services will delay the time the team has to implement their newly designed processes and as a result, delay the benefits of process transformation.
Virtual meetings offer an alternative to full, consecutive day meetings, as three-hour transformation sessions can occur over several weeks. Spreading out this time works well for many organizations’ daily workflow. In addition, there is no travel time or travel cost for a virtual event, lowering the overall event cost compared to in-person meetings by around $2,000. Employees appreciate being able to continue to safely work at home, and the transformation initiative can start any time the organization is ready.
Our hybrid service channel provides the team options regarding who attends from which location. Our transformation trainer and coach, Lee Kuntz, can be at your site or at the IPD office. Your staff can attend in-person or from anywhere they have internet access.
Since work location is becoming more fluid, the hybrid model is likely here to stay. The benefits of the hybrid model, depending on how each organization configures it, include many from both the in-person and virtual channels.
Having these channels available to forward thinking foundations and other nonprofits means employees, whereever they are located, can safely and effectively transform their processes and results.
Many leaders see that their community needs more help. Yet key to taking on this new work is increasing capacity. The good news is that leaders can begin their process transformation journey virtually, in-person, or in a hybrid fashion. Through a safe, flexible, and customized approach, organizations can start realizing the many benefits of process transformation without delay.
As founder and president of Innovation Process Design Inc., Lee has spent two decades using process improvement to solve the unique challenges facing leaders of complex service institutions. Through expert training and coaching, she helps teams look at their work with new eyes, transform how work gets done, and create real results. Learn more about Lee and how she helps organizations at improveprocess.net.
Recently a nonprofit programs director, Shannon, asked me for help when she identified gaps in her organization’s grantmaking operations. Since Shannon had seen these pain points cured in another organization, she knew the solution: transform processes to change outcomes.
Shannon’s experience is proof positive that seeing is believing. She and other leaders are now leveraging our Introduction to Process Transformation event to help their organizations to help their organizations streamline operations and learn how to improve client outcomes.
Shannon first experienced process transformation results when a consultant hired by her previous employer led the team through a process improvement project. The results were impressive, helping Shannon’s team recapture hundreds of hours of time from operations while improving the quality and speed of grants decisioning and delivery.
After Shannon accepted a promotion with a larger foundation, she immediately saw that grantee onboarding took so long that many deserving organizations dropped out before they applied for their first grant. These nonprofits just could not spend the time waiting in line for a grant application. And these frustrated organizations shared their experience with donors in the community, hurting the foundation’s reputation.
Based on her previous process improvement experience, Shannon recognized her current situation as a process improvement opportunity. She explained to operations leaders from finance, grantmaking, technology, and donor relations that their pain points were solvable through an investment in transforming operations processes. The foundation then invested in our process improvement training and coaching. As a result of their efforts, staff cut their nonprofit onboarding from 90 days to 20 days, and at the same time gathered better data and set more favorable and attainable expectations with the nonprofits they serve.
Shannon was able to get leadership on board with the funding and time investment because she had experienced the positive results of process transformation and could speak to its benefits. But how do problem solvers like Shannon gain support for process transformation when neither they nor their higher-ups have seen the benefits? Or when foundation management is not yet open to an investment in process transformation?
Recognizing that seeing is believing, we have developed an event called Introduction to Process Transformation. This live, virtual gathering entails one day of process transformation coaching with your team that fits within your organization’s existing budget. The event is tailored to your specific situation, in that leaders from your organization will identify a small process that needs improving, and you will leverage our team’s coaching to transform that process.
The expected outcomes of this one-day event are as follows:
• A detailed process and map that can drive improved outcomes.
• An implementation plan for the new process.
• Employee ownership of the newly designed process and its implementation.
• Employee engagement in the next improvement investment.
Because of the tight, action-oriented focus of this coaching, your foundation can learn and achieve the value of process transformation without stretching or exceeding your current budget. Your staff will close process gaps and solve operational pain points. Potential processes to be explored in this introductory, one-day event include creating paperless payments, gift or grant acknowledgments, and ACH payment.
Foundations don’t have to live with employee stress, reputational risk, and negative community feedback because of processes that don’t work as they should. If you are looking to cure these pain points, contact Lee Kuntz to share your foundation’s hurdles and roadblocks and hear how others are curing those pain points. Lee can suggest an adaptable process improvement coaching and training option that fits your situation. Foundations have reaped numerous rewards by investing in process transformation. You can too.
The COVID-19 pandemic has consumed our time and energy for half a year. Many organizations say it’s time to refocus, to both take care of now and build for the future. These philanthropic organizations are moving from being reactive to transformative to ensure they achieve their mission. How will organizations that are already working at capacity effectively take on their future? One tool to build that capacity is process transformation.
The Challenge: Creating the Capacity for Today and Tomorrow
Due to the pandemic, grantmaking organizations have been in reactive mode, setting up safe, remote work environments in order to continue daily operations. This has required all hands-on deck, with employees being heroes by working creatively and for long hours. Recently one foundation shared that at times employees work while sitting in their cars in front of each others’ houses, ready to hand off grant checks or paperwork to the next person for the next step.
Yet even with this all-consuming workload, philanthropic leaders are focusing on increasing their organizations’ community impact. These leaders tell me they are now attempting to step back to assess where they are in their mission while maintaining safe operations.
This is a challenging next step, as capacity is already tight. The typical work of assessing existing programs and making adjustments places a huge strain on resources in today’s already at-capacity environment.
Capacity, or the hours available to do work, is a tricky asset to manage. In my process training, I talk through this capacity constraint.
Each employee has about 2,000 hours of work capacity in a year. The tasks they perform use up that capacity. This work can add value to the community, such as issuing grants to qualified organizations. Or it can be squandered through wasted steps that add no value to the community, including rework or duplication. Each organization’s yearly capacity is based on the number of full-time people times about 2,000 hours. It is up to the organization to decide how that capacity is spent or invested.
When I coach teams, we measure their value-added and wasted steps. I find wasted steps account for between 40% and 70% of work. For example, creating grants takes many tasks for thousands of work hours to deliver the grant check to the qualified organization. Yet this process can contain rework and duplication, resulting in a waste of work hours that could be better used to serve the organization’s central mission.
Process improvement is a generic term that hints at the opportunity to improve efficiency. But process transformation—a higher level of process improvement training—builds employees’ ability to see the wasted steps and eliminate them. After receiving my team’s process transformation training, one leader said: “I just need to find these wasted steps, then solve them to get back capacity for the rest of my career.” And she did. She and her operations team took their intake for home ownership coaching processes from an average of 90 days to between 9 and 20 days. They found the capacity to deliver more, better, and faster services to their community.
Next Step: Get information on Increasing Capacity through Process Transformation
Even as grantmaking organizations struggle to get work done from their remote desks, untapped capacity is just waiting to be found. As organizations are completing this year’s work and planning for next year, including process transformation training and coaching in plans is a first step to recapturing lost or wasted capacity. With an investment in our process transformation training and coaching, organizations can recapture and reinvest $30,000 to $75,000 of labor annually. Learn more about what organizations are budgeting for in this companion blog post: This Year, Plan to Succeed!
Contact Lee Kuntz to share what you see at your organization and to learn more about how your organization can thrive during these challenging times. Other organizations are moving forward during these difficult times, your organization can too.
Is your foundation installing new grantmaking or CRM software? Many times, staff are excited to have a new system, but they are hesitant to give up what is familiar and proven. Some philanthropic organizations address these emotions by developing a comprehensive software install plan. Such a plan addresses process change management steps as well as the questions, concerns, and reservations of the people who will implement them. Leaders who took these human factors into account say their investment in thorough planning more than paid off.
More than one hundred philanthropic organizations change grantmaking systems each year. This once-in-a-decade or so task is an expensive and risky venture. Given that most foundations install a new system quite infrequently, employees are understandably unfamiliar with the conversion process. And even though some employees may be tired of the old software, are they ready to significantly change their work processes, roles, and controls to maximize the new system?
One foundation spent a couple million dollars on a new grantmaking system and CRM only to have employees bypass the labor-saving features of the new system. They continued their manual work arounds, including old work steps, spreadsheets, and piles of paper. All the expensive, state-of-the-art bells and whistles that the new system offered went unused.
Achieving buy-in from staff members who will use the new system on a daily basis is a huge contributor to software success. Therefore, meeting employees where they are and readying them to implement the changes ahead is an important project step. Recently we surveyed philanthropic leaders, asking what steps they included in their new software plan to prepare employees for the pending conversion. More than half (58%) of survey respondents said they invested in human and process change management training during their new system install.
Their outcomes? Participants said their training addressed human change-management skills, empowering employees to question how work is done, business policies, and roles and responsibilities. Many also said they believed this training helped them achieve improved outcomes during the new software install and ongoing.
Is your philanthropic organization interested in learning how human and process change management training looks? Register for this upcoming free webinar: Not Just Plug and Play – Process, People and New System Install.
Also, contact Lee Kuntz to discuss your journey and challenges. Lee can share how others who have installed new software have achieved success by incorporating both human and process change management training into their installation plan. Many foundations have helped their employees embrace new and better ways to approach their daily tasks using a new software system You can too!
Here in Minneapolis and across our nation, these are challenging times for nonprofit and philanthropic organizations. Local emergencies, impactful opportunities to speak up, and the COVID-19 pandemic are creating serious new needs in communities across the country. Organizations that were already operating at or near capacity find themselves trying to stretch their resources even further while simultaneously managing the disruptions caused by a shift to remote work, declining donations, and a volatile stock market. As a result, many organizations are struggling to meet their goals.
Learn how some organizations are going virtual to improve their nonprofit operations and results to their community through my recently published article in The Sustainable Nonprofit blog from PND by Candid.
Go Virtual to Improve Results During Emergencies