Your Organization Needs to Read Good To Great and The Social Sectors… and Here’s Why + Free Workbook
When you set out to start a nonprofit organization, did you think, “I just want to be average.” “I just want to sort of make a difference.”
When you started your organization, you probably wanted to be great, and you probably wanted to make a perceivable impact for good! You wanted to be successful.
And… how are you doing?
I want to tell you about a book and give you a workbook to help you become better than you already are. I want to help your organization become great.
In this article I am going to discuss Good to Great and the Social Sectors by Jim Collins. I am also going to give you a free workbook to help your organization act on the advice from Collins.
Before we get started, here is a link to buying Jim Collin’s book on Amazon. It is a really quick read (only 35 pages) and WELL WORTH IT. (I’ve read it at least four times in the past 3 years). Also, I will point out that this is a monograph to accompany Jim Collin’s book Good to Great.
Summary of Good to Great and the Social Sectors
For those of you who haven’t read it (but have already ordered it BECAUSE YOU SHOULD ORDER IT), here is a quick summary of the book:
Jim Collins goes through 5 points to help nonprofit organizations go from good to great:
- Defining “Great”—Calibrating Success without Business Motives
- Level 5 Leadership—Getting Things Done within a Diffuse Power Structure
- First Who—Getting the Right People on the Bus within Social Sector Constraints
- The Hedgehog Concept—Rethinking the Economic Engine without a Profit Motive
- Turning the Flywheel—Building Momentum by Building the Brand
Defining “Great”—Calibrating Success without Business Motives
In this section, Collins discusses how in business most of the metrics they use to define success revolve around money. He talks about how money in the nonprofit sector is still an input, but it isn’t something that can determine success because it isn’t an OUTPUT. An output in business might be products sold and therefore revenue, but in the social sector we measure success and outputs differently. “For a social sector organization, however, performance must be assessed relative to mission, not financial returns” (5). For instance, an output for your organization might be animals rescued or people who are now less depressed. These outputs seem much harder to measure, but Jim Collins would argue that they must be defined, and must be measured. Why? So that you can improve. If you have no way of defining “less depressed,” then how is your organization going to determine success? How will you set goals? How will you actually improve lives?
Level 5 Leadership—Getting Things Done within a Diffuse Power Structure
In this section of Good to Great, Collins suggests that nonprofits have more of a diffuse power structure. The Executive Director is not like a business CEO that can make executive decisions for the entire company. This is why, Jim Collin’s says, that it is even MORE important to be a good leader in the nonprofit sector. Ultimately, you want leaders in your organization who are able to inspire those around them. You want leaders who work for the cause wholeheartedly and make other people WANT to work for the cause wholeheartedly as well. “True leadership only exists if people follow when they have the freedom not to. If people follow you because they have no choice, then you are not leading” (13).
First Who—Getting the Right People on the Bus within Social Sector Constraints
It is critical in the social sector to get the right volunteers, board members, employees, etc. into your organization. In other words, “First get the right people on the bus” (13). “…it [will] be more difficult to get the wrong people off the bus, so be focused instead on getting the right people on the bus” (13).
The Hedgehog Concept—Rethinking the Economic Engine without a Profit Motive
Click here to see a short clip about the Hedgehog Concept
The Hedgehog Concept is “to attain piercing clarity about how to produce the best long-term results, and then exercising the relentless discipline to say, “No thank you” to opportunities that final the hedgehog test. When we examined the Hedgehog Concepts of the good-to-great companies, we found they reflected deep understanding of three intersecting circles: 1) what you are deeply passionate about, 2) what you can be the best in the world at, and 3)what best drives your economic engine” (17). In the case of the social sectors, Jim Collins changed “what best drives your economic engine” to your “revenue engine.” In other words, the Hedgehog Concept is that your organization must pick what you will be best at within your mission and align your revenue streams to match that mission.
Turning the Flywheel—Building Momentum by Building the Brand
This section of the book focuses on building momentum. “by focusing on your Hedgehog Concept, you build results. Those results, in turn, attract resources and commitment, which you use to build a strong organization” (23). Collins acknowledges that in business the momentum is usually build by a connection between a businesses financial success and capital resources. But, he says, “I’d like to suggest that a key link in the social sectors is brand reputation—built upon tangible results and emotional share of heart—so that potential supporters believe not only in your mission, but in your capacity to deliver on that mission” (25).
Your Organization’s Task
Now, I recommend that all the leadership in your organization be assigned to read this book. You could start out by assigning your Board of Directors and Executive Director to read it, then the rest of the leadership in the organization. I would assign the book and give everyone a few weeks to get a copy and read it. Then, I would have one meeting where you go through the workbook provided below. Then, I would give everyone another week to think about what you discussed at that first meeting, have them make alterations in the workbook, and come back in another week to discuss again. I really think that your organization will benefit from trying to make your organization GREAT. Plus, you will be more successful if you can get everyone on the same page, which is why everyone should read it.
In order to help your organization get the most out of this book, I’ve created a workbook. It highlights key points from the book and gives you space to brainstorm and discuss the topics as an organization.