This phrase, attributed to the great Peter Drucker, is one of my favorites. It took me a while to really understand it, but once I did, I sooooo got it; all the great ideas and plans and goals in the world mean nothing if they are not achieved. And all the great plans to achieve and produce mean nothing if the players, stewards of the culture, do not truly embrace it. No matter what anyone says, the new strategy will simply not work.
Looked Good On Paper
Several years ago, I was part of a plan to create a comprehensive development program for a small organization. This group had been around for quite a while, but had never structured themselves formally as a nonprofit organization with development and program departments. Rather, they had been largely supportive in nature.
The proverbial shift from the coffee table to the conference table had only recently begun, but was welcomed by a nationwide membership. This was the way forward, for more recognition, resources and funding. The timing of this plan was enabled by the growing ease and comfort of internet communications, bringing members together online where they had been isolated geographically.
This new sense of community was embraced by all as a way to share and create an identity for themselves. The board of directors decided this was a time to embrace growth: a new executive director with advanced skills in communications and management was hired and a plan to bring the organization forward was agreed upon and inaugurated.
And then the knives came out, the really sharp ones, too.
The new E.D. was quite idealistic and had yet to experience the true viciousness of the vituperative and verbal, but he learned fast. Despite his forward-thinking, forward-looking and forward-acting plan, fully supported and adopted by the Board of Directors, the true culture of this group was simply not ready to enact the changes necessary to achieve the growth they thought they wanted.
Some board support then fell back when the plan stalled. Results in reaching more professional associations, the creation of local membership groups supervised by regional volunteers and the anticipated financial support simply never happened.
The culture was and continued to be inward-looking, and focused on immediate challenges, which were both significant and real. The flaw was in not recognizing how much this particular culture was valued and how such a change of course seemed a rejection of the ‘old ways’. This culture was neither prepared nor ready to change their particular roles, and despite promises to cooperate, not exactly covert activities determinedly sabotaged the entire plan.
In the End
The postscript of this was that eventually the wonderful plans of the new E.D. did materialize, his programs were ultimately adopted and the goals he set were accomplished. But it was years later and under the aegis of another E.D. and an culture that was ready and open for change.
If you’d like to get to the bottom of your company’s culture get in touch by email here or by voice on 310 828 6979.
Cindy Lauren is the Principal of Lauren Associates – non profit consulting
As well as advising Executives and Boards on all aspects of nonprofit management, the firm specializes in developing fundraising solutions for all sizes of organizations.