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ArticlesLeadership, competitiveness and best practices on business management

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Management TipsPractical tools to enhance management and leadership skills

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By The Numbers

Workplace Survey, Findings

1.Workers are struggling to work effectively. 

When focus is compromised in pursuit of Collaboration, neither works well.

2. Effective workplaces balance focus and collaboration. 

Workplaces designed to enable collaboration without sacrificing employees’ ability to focus are more successful.

3. Choice drives performance and innovation. 

Employers who provide a spectrum of choices for when and where to work are seen as more innovative and have higher-performing employees.

 

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HOW TO CREATE A BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE

 

Although successful managers must have the attributes of a great leader, by themselves these attributes are not enough. Many great leaders still do not build successful organizations.

Non-profits that deliver great results over time are best positioned to survive, grow, and have an impact. Non profits that perform poorly, on the other hand, end up irrelevant or even as failures. And non profits that perform merely satisfactorily are vulnerable to shifts in the funding climate or the political environment.

 

Mark Gottfredson, Steve Schaubert and Elizabeth Babcock have identified four management principles that are essential to creating breakthrough performance at any organization. It takes enormous discipline to stay focused on these four principles. Whenever new managers take over an organization they face a daunting list of tasks. Furthermore, managers of non-profits or government agencies feel pressure from donors or voters to meet expectations. Knowing what tasks to undertake and in what sequence to do them can become an overwhelming challenge for many managers, particularly because everything initially appears so urgent.

Managers of non profit organizations should use the following four principles to help make the decisions that lead to breakthrough performance: 1) costs of serving should always decline; 2) market position determines your options; 3) clients and funding pools don’t stand still; and 4) simplicity gets results.

Non profit managers can create breakthrough performance by using all four principles together. An example of an organization that has done this is the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley (UWMBMV), one of 1,300 United Ways in the United States. Three years ago UWMBMV decided that it should narrow its efforts to increase its impact. “In the old United Way, we did anything and everything, depending on who gave us funding for what,” says Jeff Hayward, senior vice president of community impact. To create a new United Way, Hayward and his colleagues first had to decide what issues to concentrate on. To do this they surveyed community leaders, agency clients, and policymakers—“a process of 1,000 voices” as Hayward describes it—and identified a handful of issues where they could achieve the greatest results in the community and the highest returns for the donors who contributed to its $35 million annual budget.

UWMBMV used three criteria to select which areas the organization would concentrate on: The issue should take advantage of the organization’s accumulated experience; the issue should be one in which impact could be achieved with investments of several million dollars and where the organization could achieve some degree of market leadership; and the issue should be one where donors and policy makers—the voices of the customers—were clamouring for change. “It came down to: Was it called for? Did we have the expertise? And could we make a difference?” says Hayward.

Several issues fell off the table during the selection process. Two of these were health care and public education—issues where government and the private sector were already spending billions of dollars. Another was elder care, where UWMBMV had less expertise. Four issues emerged as having high potential: healthy child development and youth opportunities, where UWMBMV had a long and strong track record; and sustainable employment and affordable housing, which are prerequisites for healthy and stable families.

UWMBMV helped the agencies it funded adopt programs to reach specific goals with agreed upon measures of success. To create affordable housing the goal was eradication of homelessness, with two measures: the number of families prevented from entering homelessness and the number of homeless families moved to permanent homes. The financial rationale behind these measures was indisputable: It cost an average of $2,000 to prevent a family from falling into homelessness, compared to about $19,000 to shelter a homeless family for a year.

The results of this new approach to ending homelessness have been dramatic. Homelessness in Quincy, Mass., where the program was implemented, plummeted 55 percent after two years. In Denver, which implemented a similar program, homelessness dropped more than 36 percent. Adopting clear priorities has also helped improve UWMBMV’s relations with its donors. “The focus has made it easier now to communicate with donors and manage those relationships,” says Hayward. “The program focus has brought expertise to the team. We’ve become more efficient at judging where to spend a dollar.”