Philanthropic organizations, including community and private foundations, are working hard to increase their impact in their community. As resources are tight, some foundations use process improvement to recapture and reinvest their time. Others use process improvement to deliver more, better or faster in their community.
Most foundation employees have done process improvement. Perhaps you have questioned if and how work should be done. Perhaps you have been part of a team that changed grantmaking steps.
Yet did the changes make a big impact? Did they save time or deliver to grantees faster? Did the changes get done on time? Or did discussions go on and on without implementation?
These results happen often. ProSci, the national change management researcher, surveyed 150 process improvement projects. They found the majority of process improvement projects failed. These projects failed to get the expected results or failed to complete on time or at all.
Only the minority of surveyed process improvement projects succeeded. These successful projects used proven process improvement steps to get the results they needed on time and on budget. You can too.
Process improvement proven at community and private foundations
Process improvement success starts with understanding some core process improvement concepts:
The first concept is that we each use steps to get work done. For example, most people have steps to get that first great cup of coffee in the morning. Perhaps the first step is getting the ground coffee beans out of the cupboard. Then putting them into the coffee maker and so forth.
Whether it is a great cup of coffee or any other desired outcome, the logic is the same. We take steps to get desired outcomes.
Concept 1: Work has steps to accomplish a needed outcome. These steps are a process.
Steps 1 + Step 2 + Step 3 = Outcome
Every foundation has processes. And each process has steps to accomplish an outcome. Here is a simplified foundation grants process:
Approve grant + Enter + Issue check = Accurate, timely grant payment
Concept 2: The steps of a process determine the outcome.
Is that first cup of coffee dependent on the steps you took to make it happen? The type and amount of coffee used? The brewing time? What is added? We get to be experts at good coffee by taking the steps to achieve the outcome we need.
The same concept is true with community foundation processes. The steps of work determine how fast, accurate, complete that work is done. That relationship between the steps (your processes) and your outcomes is important. Dr. Edward Deming, the father of quality systems, thought about processes as systems to do work. Dr. Deming said: “Your system is perfectly designed to give you the results you’re getting.”
Concept 3: Improve the process to improve the outcome.
Sometimes we want to get a different outcome or results. Perhaps stronger coffee for Monday morning. To get that different outcome on Monday, we change the steps or the process we do to get the coffee. Perhaps different beans, longer brewing time or less creamer. We change or improve the coffeemaking process to get a different or better outcome.
The same is true with foundation outcomes. Perhaps the foundation needs to recapture and reposition time to serve donors or the community. Or the foundation needs to create completely error free results. Or get gifts or grants recorded in real-time. Improving the foundation’s processes can help the foundation achieve all of these improved outcomes.
Concept 4: Use process improvement proven in your industry.
Process improvement has been around for over 50 years. Yet process improvement is not a one size fits all. The concepts that work in making coffee, manufacturing or even for public companies may not help improve community foundations processes.
Foundation process improvement focuses on getting the results foundations need with the approach and tools that work in that industry. For example, foundation process improvement includes improving the steps, tools and business rules of foundation processes. Including all 3 of these elements increases the impact the team can achieve.
Successful foundation process improvement achieves impressive outcomes
With these 4 key elements in mind, what does foundation process improvement help achieve? In my work with community foundations, here are the results foundations have achieved through proven process improvement:
• Recaptured over 4,000 work hours.
• Error free for 3 years.
• Existing technology is fully implemented.
• Deliver to customers in half the time.
Are any of these outcomes interesting to your foundation? Then check out the companion blog article here: 3 Keys to Avoid Process Improvement Project Failure.
Whether it’s having that great cup of coffee you look forward to each morning, or improving your foundation’s impact, having the right processes in place achieves the desired outcome. And when your team has the right process improvement resources and skills, you can achieve great outcomes.
Lee Kuntz is an expert at helping foundation teams build their process muscle and successfully improve process and outcomes. Your team can succeed too. Contact Lee to learn more.