In the Information Systems Forum group that I participate in, there has been a running dialog lately about whether a nonprofit should operate as a business. At my current organization, I’ve watched the tide change from a President who came from the business world who clearly used business principles in his management style, to a new management which has reverted to a more traditional nonprofit style.
From the technology side, there are clearly an emphasis on fundraising which affects much of the software that I use. In addition, the nonprofit focus on ‘mission’ is very different from the bottom line objectives of a corporation. Yet I believe there are many business principles that can be used effectively in a nonprofit environment. As a project manager, I think nonprofits have much to gain from systematically managing projects, e.g. making sure there is a project plan and that all stakeholders are involved in the process from the beginning.
I recently completed First, Break All the Rules, part of a series of books co-authored by Marcus Buckingham that includes Now, Discover Your Strengths and a recent addition, Go Put Your Strengths to Work: 6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance. Some of its ideas can be applied effectively in a for profit or nonprofit environment:
- Select for Talent, described as ‘recurring patterns of behavior that can be productively applied.’ While skills and knowledge can be taught, talents cannot.
- Define the Right Outcomes, then let your staff decide how to best achieve those outcomes.
- Focus on Strengths, not on weaknesses as is traditionally done.
- Find the Right Fit, where staff can apply the talents they already have
Some core elements needed to attract and maintain your most talented staff members include:
- do your know what is expected of you?
- is recognition and praise given regularly?
- does your manager encourage staff development?
- does the mission/purpose of company make your job feel important?
- do you have the opportunity to do what you are best at?
While nonprofits are different from businesses, there’s a lot we can learn from what from business on how to manage effectively.