I was talking with a colleague last week about an organization we both care about, that has steadily moved from bad to worse over the past several years.
This is an organization with the potential to accomplish such incredible work – the community could be an astoundingly different place, simply because this organization exists. Their mission is unlike any other organization in town. And they have considerable strengths to build upon.
And yet the organization’s leaders have all but squandered its considerable strengths. They have done mediocre work because the work could easily get funded. And they have so completely ignored the difference they could make in the community, that now their only hope is a group of past leaders who are gathering to determine the organization’s fate.
My advice to my colleague was simple: Blow it up and start over. Or at least assume that is what you have done as you do your planning.
When we plan to save an existing organization, we dive right into problem-solving tactics. How can we ensure it survives financially? How will we find better board members? What programs are salvageable? And etc.
However, when we plan as if we had blown it up and started over, we invite the opportunity to ask very different questions.
• If the organization didn’t exist, and we were starting from scratch, what success would we be aiming at? What would the community look like if we were 100% successful?
• What conditions would the organization be seeking to change in our community?
• What kinds of programs might we build to begin changing those conditions?
• Who should we engage as we ask and answer these questions? Whose lives could be affected by the work we are considering?
• How would we know if we were successful at changing those conditions? What might be good indicators?
• Who else is doing similar work? Who could we partner with to make this happen?
From there, we can identify the strengths upon which we can rebuild. From there, we can identify the values we want to always uphold as we do our work. From there, we can engage others in the quest to build a better community by rebuilding the organization.
Creating concrete plans to achieve our highest potential for impact is something each of us can do with everything we are working on, whether or not your work is in disarray.
• Organizations that are not falling apart can create concrete plans to reach for their own highest potential – the highest level of success they can imagine creating in their communities.
• The same goes for us as individuals. We, too, can envision our own highest potential and create concrete plans to work toward that success.
And the secret to all this? In the end, we don’t need to blow it up at all! Just aim at what is possible, identify the strengths that can help you get there, and start walking.