Do You Have Opportunities to Improve Process?

Tag: community foundation

Do You Have Opportunities to Improve Process?

January 17, 2024 | 2:19 pm

As the new year begins, you may wonder whether there are ways your team can improve process. I am frequently asked about this, and based on my experience and certifications, I see critical feedback as a sign of a potential process improvement opportunity.

Feedback as an Indicator

As an organization that seeks to make a positive impact on your community, you undoubtedly receive feedback from many parties. The kind of feedback you receive can help you pinpoint areas where process improvement might be both warranted and achievable.

Is any of this feedback familiar to you?

  • Your board is challenging the organization to deliver more to the community.
  • There is board pressure to keep costs and resources at current levels despite inflation.
  • Visionary senior leaders are looking for the next level of impact or service.
  • Community members are asking for more help and/or for help to be delivered more quickly.
  • Funders are asking for a greater community impact from their investment.
  • Employees are communicating that they are overwhelmed with work or are at risk of leaving.
  • Partners are seeking ways to work together more effectively so they can help others.
  • Regulators are asking your organization to deliver services to the community in a timelier manner.

 

These parties all want you to do more with what you have. You can close your ears to this feedback, or you can treat this feedback as a golden opportunity to apply proven process improvement techniques that address the identified concerns. Taking a deep dive to assess your processes can enhance how work is done and can change outcomes for the better.

Opportunity Knocks!

So, does your organization have an opportunity to improve process? If you have received critical feedback from any key parties, the answer is yes. To learn more about your team’s potential to improve the way your work is done, contact me to talk through what you see. Others have improved processes to better serve their community. You can too!

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.

Thrive During the Busy Donation Season Through this Best Practice

October 19, 2023 | 12:32 pm

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.

People Are at the Heart of Improving Process and Outcomes

September 5, 2023 | 9:06 am

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 lee@improveprocess.net 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.

Nonprofit Builds Muscles to Deliver More Community Assistance

September 5, 2023 | 2:06 pm

Is doing more for your community one of your organization’s goals?

Situation

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?

Solution

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.

Results

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.

Build Process and System Success through a One-time Process Investment

April 19, 2023 | 2:17 pm

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.

 

Plan to Achieve Daily Operations Success

February 3, 2023 | 8:41 am

Is your organization preparing the annual plan for next year? The strategic plan for the next five years? This is a time for big ideas. An important one is how to fulfill your organization’s mission by making day-to-day operations function well.

Is your organization being held back by a process that is no longer working as it should?

Here is an invitation to a live, no cost webinar to hear how community foundations are planning for success by gaining support to fix daily operations pain points. Hear return on investment and the resource needs to finally solve the pain points that hold up your team’s success.

Register in advance for this meeting: 

Registration Link

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Your organization does not have to live with painful client operations. Others have improved how work is done and clients are served. You can too.

Finally Solve the Process Pain Points in Your Operations

January 16, 2023 | 2:25 pm

Community foundations can fulfill their mission only when their day-to-day operations function well. Is your foundation being held back by a process that is no longer working as it should?

Do you see pain points in your foundation’s daily operations? Are these challenges taking a lot of time to work around? Are agonizing problems such as slowness in gift confirmation or grant payment turnaround leading to unfulfilled promises to your community?

If your answer to any of these questions is yes, check out our next Process Transformation and Training Cohort Workshop™.

Approach that Creates Success

Community foundations are using our twelve-hour virtual workshop to solve their pain points. Foundation employees who have participated in this deep-dive workshop have resolved their ongoing challenges through the following ways—and others:

• Improved scholarship processes and practices in order to meet community needs with less labor.
• Redesigned gift processes to deliver more impactful confirmations more swiftly.
• Modified board meeting preparation so it requires less labor.
• Mapped processes and opportunities in preparation for a new software.
• Created or enhanced electronic payment.

The keys to these teams’ success is the proven operations transformation training and coaching Innovation Process Design (IPD) provides. To learn more about how our expertise can benefit your organization, watch a sample of a virtual and an in-person process deep dive in this short video: IPD Process Transformation Deep Dive Video Link.

For over 20 years, our community foundation clients say they have achieved the results they need from our process transformation services. We consistently hear feedback such as the following:

About the Workshop

In this twelve-hour virtual workshop, one or more members of your staff will be coached to redesign one process that is holding your foundation back. Participants will be taught how to identify sticking points in that process and will receive individualized coaching to help them develop workable solutions based on proven practices. Also from this cohort format, your staff will also learn by hearing about the pitfalls the other three organizations are facing and how they can confront them successfully.

What your foundation will get from this workshop:
• Solutions and a newly designed process to solve your team’s frustrations;
• An implementation plan delineating how to put the new approach in place; and
• An empowered staff member(s) with greater process transformation skills and motivation to become a change agent within your organization.

Learn more about this practical workshop here: Process Transformation and Training Cohort Workshop

The cost of this workshop is $1,800 for the first attendee.  The cost per additional attendee working on the same challenge is $1,000. These prices are designed to make this outcome-oriented coaching accessible to all foundations. This workshop is scheduled for May 8 – May 11, 2023; 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm CT each day.

Next Steps

In order to ensure personalized coaching for each attendee, this workshop is limited to four foundations. Therefore, contact Lee Kuntz soon to get answers or to register for this workshop. Other foundations have solved their operations process pain points through this workshop. You can too.

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.

How Did Your End-of-Year Rush Go?

January 9, 2023 | 9:54 am

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.

Figure 1

How Process Deep Dive Success Happens

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 Ready to Succeed?

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!

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.

Innovation Process Design Quarterly Newsletter November 2022

November 4, 2022 | 10:41 am

Operations Process Tip for the Quarter

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.

Success Story: From Frail and Overloaded to Consistently Delivering on Promises

Situation
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.”

Solution
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.

Outcomes
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

Consider Our Process Transformation and Training Cohort Workshop™

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.

Lead Operations Transformation to Increase Community Impact

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

Using a Process Map When Installing a New Software System

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.

Refine Operations Roles and Responsibilities to Increase Community Impact

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

Hear Me Speak

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.

Refine Operations Roles and Responsibilities to Increase Community Impact

October 24, 2022 | 1:10 pm

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?

Strategy and Operations Create Community Impact

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 Roles

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.

Operations Role Changes in our Sector

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

Operations Skills Needed

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.

Investing in Operations Skills

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

Conclusion

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.

Contact Lee today to discuss your challenge.