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.
Build Process and System Success through a One-time Process Investment.
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.
Many community foundations and other nonprofits receive the majority of their gifts in November and December. Even though leaders plan for this hectic time, employees often work long hours under significant stress, and despite their best efforts, they provide slow service to their community, which inevitably results in complaints.
Did you experience any of these problems and pitfalls during your organization’s end-of-year rush?
The good news is that your employees do not have to be pushed to exhaustion as they tackle year-end duties. Taking action in 2023 to redesign gift and grants processes will enable your team to seamlessly serve your community without burning out.
Processes are Built for Slow Times
Most organizations’ processes and operations are built for the first ten months of the year when everything moves at a slower pace. From January through October, work gets done on schedule, staff members go home on time, and the community receives the service they expect.
Then November and December hit, when 70% of most organizations’ gifts and grant recommendations come in. Even by restricting vacations in order to create capacity, there just is not enough work time to produce the expected results. Instead, processes and operations break under pressure, causing more delays, errors, and calls from donors seeking updates.
The Solution for 2023
If your team experienced any of these significant challenges at the end of 2022, you need a significant solution. That solution is a coached deep dive into your organization’s operations.
Teams that engage our help by way of a deep dive into their gift or grants operations increase capacity and turnaround time by 30% to 60%—and that is by using resources they already have in place. These teams build their process skills and then decrease and improve the steps of work, recapturing capacity that they can leverage during busy times.
For example, one foundation went from 125 steps to 42 steps in the course of being coached on a redesign of their donor advised fund (DAF) grants process. This dramatic reduction created capacity and built the team’s ability to nimbly help each other get work done. Figure 1 shows the working model of this team’s grants operations before and after their deep dive.
One key to our success in achieving measurable results during our deep dives is using proven process transformation techniques and training. As we build a team’s skills-and-will to change how work is done, staff identify opportunities for improvement, often generating between 20 and 50 ideas. Since the ideas come from employees who are actually carrying out the processes, they are excited to engage in the transformation and then maintain the new processes. Check out how both an in-person and a virtual deep dive look in this brief video: deep dive video.
Are you hoping your organization’s year-end tasks will go better in November and December 2023 than they have in previous years? Do you and your employees want to see more of your families during the holidays? Do you want to avoid errors and slow service that will frustrate the community you serve?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, contact me, Lee Kuntz, to talk through what you see and to discuss a plan to achieve your goal. You can also join us on Wednesday, February 15 for our IPD Webinar: Build Operations Success into Your Annual Plan. Or learn more about what it takes to do a process deep dive in this blog post: This Year, Plan to Succeed!
Other organizations have transformed their processes to achieve greater success. 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 your situation and what you want to achieve.
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.
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, CLSSBB to learn more.
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.
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.
Community action programs (CAP agencies) are the last local line of defense for families in need. They feed and heat our neighbors. They step in to ready young children, who would other wise be left behind, for school success.
Some CAP agencies want to do more. Therefore, they are building their team’s process muscles. Then they are taking a deep dive into their operations processes to better meet community needs. Their outcomes are recapturing and reinvesting work time and better meeting state mandates. Learn the innovation happening at one CAP agency from our presentation at the Minncap Annual Conference.
MinnCAP Presentation: Recapture Significant Time and Deliver More
Contact Lee today to discuss your challenge.