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.
In this, my twentieth year in business, I thank so many for being part of my community. By collaborating with wise and dynamic people and organizations, I have had the privilege of assisting hundreds of organizations in solving their operational pain points. Working together, we have shaped organizational cultures for the better and have equipped organizations to fulfill their mission and serve their constituents effectively. Thank you.
In today’s blog, I am reflecting on that journey and sharing a few important learnings.
Twenty years ago this month, I was at a crossroads. I was burned out from a project director role and an accounting manager role and was out of work due to job elimination. Job elimination took me by surprise. Exhaustion did not. After catching up on my sleep and rebuilding my energy for a month, I naively decided I would do “consulting.” I had no idea what that meant, nor did I have a plan for how to succeed on that path. Yet I jumped in and promptly began both a new career and a new organization. That was the start of my real learnings about how to be successful in any career.
We all have skills in multiple areas, and how we choose to invest those skills is a personal decision. In my case, I was thankful for my previous experience with Cargill Inc. and American Express (later American Express Financial Advisors), both Forbes Top 100 companies. As I started my consulting journey, I was asked in interviews with potential clients, “What do you do?” I regularly replied, “Anything you need.”
The school of hard knocks soon taught me that when I tried to do everything, some things went well and others did not. If I lacked passion or relevant experience for a given consulting role, I became stressed, unfulfilled and disappointed that I failed to produce strong results for the client. In contrast, when I was both passionate about the task at hand and good at it, I was happy and my clients were pleased to recommend me to others because of the measurable improvements they experienced.
Skill is important. Yet passion is a priceless intangible. Passion fills a person with energy and drive—it’s the spark that engages others. Passion makes a person believable.
My early consulting forays taught me that my passion was achieving process improvement results. I came to believe that the only people who can improve how work is done are the employees who do those steps. I also observed that most employees do not yet have the process improvement skills they need to approach their work in the most effective and efficient manner. Few employees are familiar enough with the science behind quality management, lean operations, and human-centered design to attain process improvement results. ProSci, a change-management organization, published a survey saying that the majority of process improvement projects fail, with lack of skill being a primary reason. Embracing my role as a process improvement trainer and coach has fueled my business and services for many years. And I thank my first client, John Ahlfs, for taking a chance on me 20 years ago and launching me on my journey.
When I am talking to teams from around the country about how they can recapture time and deliver better results to their community, I get excited. And teams that engage me get inspired. They believe.
I periodically get asked to provide career guidance, which I do whenever possible. My time-tested career advice is to follow your passion, because being excited about what you do is the surest way to achieve success.
When I decided to go into consulting, I thought people would automatically listen to me. I was the expert, right? But after watching my advice go sideways several times, I learned there was more to my service to others than teaching about what I knew.
I found a book on consultative consulting, which suggested listening before providing insights. This made perfect sense, because how can a consultant help anyone without understanding where the organization or its employees are coming from? Even a person who is paid to give advice must earn the right to give it.
That is when I started really listening well to my prospects, clients, friends, and family. Once I learned to ask the right questions and listen attentively to the answers, I was able to provide a meaningful, well-rounded perspective. Understanding others’ views, drivers, and goals now has become second nature to me and has become an essential element of my success.
Initially I was going to show everyone just how to get consulting done. I thought I was smart and skilled and could simply prescribe the changes that needed to be made. I missed so much while I acted under that do-it-myself mindset. I missed how others saw things. I missed wrinkles and texture about situations. I missed building relationships with the people who would help me.
Since that time, I have built a community that supports my business. I have vendors who have been with me most of these 20 years, learning about my business and providing exactly what was needed again and again. I have had employees who have learned my company’s values and have applied them so well. I am also lucky enough to have supporters who provide wise counsel, share important information, and speak well of my work to potential clients. I believe I have earned their trust by listening to their needs and being committed to their success. And I have clients who trusted me to listen and meet their needs. These same clients are consistently available to provide a reference and a view into their work with my team.
I have learned that it takes a community to make a business or career successful. I am so thankful to you and others who have trusted and helped me during the past twenty years. Here’s to the next decade!
Community foundations are looking for ways to deliver more to their grantees, boards, donors – the entire community. In today’s pandemic environment, organizations are challenged to both think and work differently.
In this Bay FAOG presentation, Lee Kuntz will join leaders from the San Francisco Foundation to talk through what foundations are doing to transform their grants and gifts processes.
This session is open to all FAOG members that are part of the Bay FAOG chapter.
When a foundation or nonprofit updates its software system, the purchase typically requires years of research and a financial investment that can run well into six figures. So, it’s important to make the most of that purchase. The most effective way to do that is to use system upgrades as an opportunity to reexamine internal processes.
In this live, no cost webinar learn the best practices for integrating the business processes and people into new system implementation.
Register in advance for this webinar at: Not Just Plug and Play Webinar Registration.
To learn about these best practices, check out these articles: Address Our Humanity in New Software Installation and How to Reimage Business Processes for Software Implementation Success. And contact Lee Kuntz to share your new software implementation challenges.
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
My family learned that being awarded a scholarship is just the first step toward actually receiving funds. Prior to entering college, my son was awarded a scholarship administered by a community foundation. Over the course of his first three years in college, the foundation contacted us no less than a dozen times to get him that scholarship money. If his experience is typical, one can surmise that the task of administering the more than 1.5 million scholarships awarded annually in this country is cumbersome at best.
The Indiana Philanthropy Alliance’s GIFT Program shared with me that many of their members are squeezed by labor-intensive scholarship programs. When community foundations face these economic trials year after year, foundation sustainability can begin to erode.
Last week, eighteen leaders from five Indiana community foundations met online to confront these challenges head-on. Given the current pandemic, they participated from 16 different locations. We led them in plenary sessions and also had them work in breakout rooms at different points during the day.
An important step as we began our coaching was for each foundation to map its scholarship processes, enabling them to see what was really going on. Their eye-opening comments included, “How can it take this many steps and so many hours?” and “I didn’t know you were doing all that work.”
We then coached attendees to identify time traps—places where the work slowed and consumed massive capacity. Some key learnings were that existing software was not being fully used, duplicate and unclear roles were creating confusion and sapping work hours, and business policies such as sending students letters versus texted or emails were hurting the community foundation.
We asked these leaders to collaborate with their foundation colleagues and with others who attended this one-day event to identify solutions to their time traps. Through use of our templates, participants outlined a way to modify their current approach and institute a new approach. The four process transformation stages are as follows:
By the end of the day, participants shared how they decreased the work steps they planned to implement in their scholarship operations by 25% to 50%. Some of their changes will result in students receiving help and information via the technology they use every day. Scholarship fund owners will receive improved service and be able to award more scholarships. Community foundations will streamline operations and position themselves to do other important work in their community.
Participants were excited and encouraged about the new path they charted. One attendee said, “With everyone’s help, I now have a mind-blowing solution that will help both us and the students.” Another added, “Thank you, Lee. It was an enjoyable and productive day.”
Thank you to Terri Johnson, Rosemary Dorsa, and the Indiana Philanthropy Alliance’s GIFT Program for sponsoring this exciting event.
Any Indiana foundations interested in more information or being part of the next cohort can contact Terri Johnson for more information (317.630.5200). Contact Lee Kuntz to learn more about how your foundation can recapture capacity through transforming operations. Once their new scholarship process is implemented, these foundations will be more efficient and effective by recapturing hundreds of work hours. You can, too!
Have you installed new software that was universally embraced and paid for itself quickly, perhaps even within 24 months?
Attaining widespread employee buy-in at an affordable price is a worthy but difficult goal. Yet as new software competes for funding with other good ideas, achieving this is important. Business process redesign can help philanthropic organizations realize this measure of success.
Philanthropic organizations replace software, including their big grantmaking systems, every five to twenty years. That makes sense, as the philanthropic industry is growing. Contributions to donor-advised funds totaled $37.12 billion in 2018. This represents an 86 percent increase in contributions over the past five years. The related grants increased likewise.
Growth in grantmaking often necessitates employing new tools to stay ahead of the workload. Leaders of philanthropic organizations need to build a strong case to justify investment in costly new software. The best-case scenario is when the new software pays for itself within 12 to 24 months. In order to achieve such a favorable return on investment, employees throughout the organization need to be open to change and willing to explore all that the software has to offer. Business process redesign engages employees in fully learning and embracing new software, inviting them to fully leverage it.
Recently, three experienced technology leaders and I spoke at a Technology Association of Grantmakers webinar about how to leverage business process redesign to promote software acceptance and a quick return on investment. Key points:
Check out this new, free tool that can inform your thinking about software implementation: Business Process Redesign Steps for New Software Success.
Contact me, Lee Kuntz, at firstname.lastname@example.org for a no-cost discussion of your situation and recommended steps to redesign your business processes.
Foundations have realized substantial benefits from their new software investment through leveraging our business process transformation coaching and training. You can too!
The COVID-19 health crisis has created serious needs in nearly every community, and for the philanthropic and nonprofit organizations that serve those communities it has created a unique challenge: Organizations that were already working at capacity now see even more opportunities to carry out their mission, but they are struggling to find the resources to meet those needs. Disruptions caused by a move to remote work, declines in giving, and an unpredictable stock market are all making it more difficult for organizations to meet their goals.
Employees who were already 100% committed now find they need to commit 200%. So, where does that extra 40 hours come from? Increasing your organization’s capacity to have a positive impact on targeted populations is key at this time of scarce resources; and live, online, process improvement training and coaching is the perfect tool to help build organizational muscle while keeping staff safe.
Do your foundation staff face overwhelming workloads? Are you experiencing growing responsibilities but no funding to add staff? Are you taking heat for errors? Does your big technology investment need to be better utilized to get the promised ROI?
Philanthropic leaders can learn how some have cured such pain and become heroes to their staff, audit committees, and boards. One community foundation recaptured more than 60 percent of its working time and now delivers to their community both faster and more effectively.
First, hear the concepts that are getting results. Then, identify your opportunities to improve your foundation’s capacity to do more, delight the community, and get employees home at night.
No-cost webinar time and date: May 19, 2020 at 11 am to Noon central time.
Register in advance for this webinar:
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.