How are you measuring progress? Are you measuring the right things? The old adage “what gets measured, gets done” rings true here. So, what are your key performance indicators? Are they aligned with your priorities? Will they alert you early in the process (as in a “leading” indicator) or late in the process (a “lagging” indicator) that something needs attention? Having an effective set of measures is the fifth key to execution.
Consider the chart shown here. I’ve often called this an organization’s “backbone.” Do you have curvature of the spine, or is there strong alignment from vision to objectives to services. Second, how well do your measures evaluate these elements from top to bottom, or wherever your responsibilities lie? Are they helping you maintain a straight backbone?
Measures communicate progress, or a lack thereof, against identified goals. Measures also communicate what we think is important. One of Pursuant’s clients commented that they were embarrassed that we had to tell them about the decline they were experiencing in major donors and major gifts over the last several years. His statement reflected that they had taken their eye off of something absolutely critical to their organization. They are not alone. We routinely tell clients about trends in giving at all levels, trends in donor engagement, revenue projections based on current trends, and so forth—and information the client wasn’t aware of prior to our engagement.
We also measure fundraising and organizational best practices. The existence of certain practices tells us something about how well our clients are attracting donors, engaging them in their work, and building long-term, fruitful relationships over time. It tells us of their fundraising and organizational strengths and weaknesses. Great strategy starts with an effective evaluation process.
Your problem may not be having a set of measures, but that your measures are too difficult to assemble. The best measures in the world, if it is overly difficult to assemble what is needed to calculate it, isn’t going to help. Find a simpler way to measure what you are trying to track.
Once action plans are in place, we have to measure progress and determine if what we are accomplishing is doing what we had hoped. We may have a shiny new resource center, but if n0 one is being served by it, what have we accomplished? Measurement requires that we courageously look at the data and draw observations and conclusions that will drive further strategy and action, or help us get our execution priorities back on track.
Once you have a commitment to measure, it is amazing how quickly leadership can drive attention to key performance indicators. Pursuant’s CEO Trent Ricker recently asked our management team to include a section on key performance indicators as part of their weekly reports. Why? He wants everyone to keep their eye on identified priorities, and he wants to make sure regular progress is being made in the right areas. For those who aren’t sure what key performance indicators to track, requests like this prompt important conversations.
What measures are you using that point to progress being made against your strategic initiatives? How balanced are your measures? Are they all focused on one area, or are they all lagging indicators? How quickly would you know if an initiative was not producing a desired result?
Several years ago I was going through Steven Covey’s 7 Habits program with a leadership team. We were watching a video clip where he had a pile of rocks that he was trying to bury in a bucket filled two-thirds with sand. The rocks represented the major priorities in life, while the sand was all the little things that fill up our day. His first attempt at inserting all the rocks into the bucket of sand, one rock at a time, was unsuccessful. It didn’t work.
He then took an empty bucket, representing an empty schedule, and carefully placed the large rocks into the bucket first, then poured the sand in to fill in the gaps between the rocks. I thought there was no way it would all fit, but with some shuffling, it did.
Covey’s memorable point was that when we try to fit large commitments and projects into calendars that are already two-thirds full (much less completely filled) with smaller commitments, we can’t possibly get our most important priorities done. We have to start with a calendar where large assignments are scheduled first, followed by smaller items that fill in the gaps.
I realized while watching that video that something had to change in how I thought about my schedule. We all deal with the challenge of balancing great opportunities against too few resources. My problem was that some of my most strategic priorities were being postponed because they were not fitting in amidst all the other stuff already on my calendar.
Looking at the eight keys to execution, taking action—actually doing the work of execution—is the most time consuming of all the keys. Once we get to this step in the process, our challenge is to make sure we have allocated the time needed to get the right things done. That implies the need to allocate time for them before our calendars fill up with all the miscellaneous stuff on our plates.
This is a good place to ask: Who is managing your calendar? Are you essentially operating as a “victim” of all the requests being imposed on you? Do you ever decline a meeting request because you have more important work to do? Is it time to delegate? Are you attending meetings because it feels good to be needed, or because you don’t trust the staff who have been tasked with the responsibility?
Leaders need to take control over their schedules and should empower their staff to do the same. Start saying no to some requests. Ask that meeting time be better managed.
Sometimes our problem isn’t allocating time for important work. It is that too many crises interrupt our days. How often is your schedule derailed because of something unexpected? Why didn’t you see the crisis coming? This issue gets back to creating urgency and identifying issues that needed to be addressed before they turn into a crisis.
Not only will your organization appreciate your focus, but your friends and family members will, too. They are usually the first to feel the effects of an out-of-balance work life where trivial matters and crisis issues have crowded out the room we would normally use for accomplishing the most important things in life, whether at work or at home.
How are you allocating time for top priority work? Are you scheduling sufficiently in advance, or is crisis crowding out the important items on your calendar? What does your calendar say about your priorities, or about how well you are scheduling and investing time?
Tell us what your thoughts on the 5 keys we’ve discussed so far.
Reading this article, I was struck by the following passage:
If you own the organization’s success, the game changes for you, and you’ll find a dramatic increase in the freedom you have to lead and produce results. Why is this so? Ownership of the larger vision gives greater perspective and ability to contribute across the board in a way that ensures performance. Think about it – when you own your leader’s intentions as your own, you inevitably grow and expand. It’s similar when you own the results of your fellow team members – you will have unmistakable power to speak up, take risks and generate creative actions to ensure success. It’s a mindset where everybody wins.
In light of our recent conversations about breaking down nonprofit silos, it is becoming increasingly important for all nonprofit employees to own the business of fundraising. We call this creating a “culture of philanthropy“. Regardless of what department you work in, the “fundraising isn’t my job” argument just doesn’t work anymore.