Leaders must nurture an organizational culture, from the top to bottom, of high performance and continuous improvement.
America’s nonprofit and public sectors are being rocked by seismic economic and social shifts that are simultaneously increasing demand for services and reducing the supply of funding to pay for them.
The cold reality is that in our present era of unsustainable debts and deficits, our nation simply will not be able to justify huge subsidies for social-sector activities and government programs without more assurance that they’re on track to realize results.
Public funders—and eventually private funders as well—will migrate away from organizations with stirring stories alone, toward well-managed organizations that can also demonstrate meaningful, lasting impact. “The federal government is now beginning to face stark choices,” wrote former White House officials Peter Orszag and John Bridgeland in The Atlantic. “The federal budget crunch will force change.”
In this era of scarcity and Solomonic choices, it’s no longer good enough to make the case that we’re addressing real needs. We need to prove that we’re making a real difference.
There is only one way to rise to this daunting challenge: Leaders must nurture an organizational culture, from top to bottom, of high performance and continuous improvement. And let us be clear: Technology is not the decisive factor in whether organizations make the transition to high performance and raise their impact. Far more important is the mindset of the leaders who put these systems in place—a mindset that can prevail even in organizations that can’t afford to build sophisticated data systems.
And what does that high-performance, leap-of-reason mindset entail? It means leaders need to be:
- willing to rethink, redesign, and reinvent
- clear about their aspirations
- intentional in defining their approaches
- relentless in getting “the right people on the bus in the right seats”
- rigorous in gauging their process
- willing to admit mistakes
- capable of quickly adapting and improving
The materials on this website are intended for courageous leaders who are willing to address these challenges head on. It’s for those who are motivated from within—not those who have been pushed to look at “performance” because it’s a trend or a good marketing tool, and not because a funder or investor said they had to. It’s for those who understand in their bones that high performance is integral to ensuring material, measurable, and sustainable good for those they dedicated their lives to serving.