Wayfinding. It is the term used to describe the various ways that cities, buildings, parks, transit systems, and more help people find their way and avoid getting lost. I find that more successful organizations pay great attention to wayfinding. Doing ...

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Wayfinding for Groups: Seven Questions to Accelerate Progress


It is the term used to describe the various ways that cities, buildings, parks, transit systems, and more help people find their way and avoid getting lost.

I find that more successful organizations pay great attention to wayfinding. Doing so usually accelerates group progress and often increases the satisfaction of group members.

During the early stages of every new group—a committee, a staff project team, a board, et al—a handful of basic wayfinding questions need to be answered.

They are not particularly sexy.
They are not particularly challenging.
They are not difficult to answer.

Yet they often go unasked and unanswered, essentially leaving those convened to accomplish something to feel rather lost in how to do so.

That's a huge missed opportunity.

When you next convene a group of people address the following, at minimum:
  1. What are we here to do and how does it fit with other efforts?  Clarify purpose and overall strategy.
  2. How will we know we are successful? Explore desired results, key metrics for progress, and feedback opportunities.
  3. Who’s here to do it (basic background info), what can they contribute, what are their interests, how to they engage?  We don't trust people we don't know.  Help us get to know each other.
  4. How does work usually get done?  Review structure, legal obligations, processes, systems, and the range of permissions for people to exercise initiative.
  5. What agreements do we need to make with each other?  Calibrate individual preferences with group and organizational needs.
  6. What relevant “insider” info do I need to know? Help orient me to the existing culture, relevant historical data/efforts related to our current charge, and available resources we can access.
  7. What should I do between meetings?  I'm here to work.  What should I do besides showing up for meetings?
Want to go to the head of the class?  Share all of this info prior to the first meeting being convened.  Or better yet … as a part of the recruitment process to make sure you are attracting the right candidates.

This orientation shouldn't be tedious and complex, but it should be done.  Consistently.

What other core questions would you add to this list?

Organizations and Meaning-Making: A Prediction

In their book, a simpler way, Margaret Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers shared a concise, but compelling proposition: “Life accepts only partners, not bosses.”

While I believe this statement has been true since the beginning of time, I predict that a rapidly growing number of individuals and organizations will embrace it and operationalize it.

Our memberships and communities are increasingly diverse in needs, aspirations, and perspectives. The challenge and opportunities we face are increasingly complex.  Both of these realities require—not just invite—us to become better partners with each other, not bosses over each other. 

Human beings are meaning-seeking creatures.  While we all have moments where we just want to be told what to do, we more often are internally motivation by a passionate purpose we believe in or a cause we care deeply enough about to champion.  To try and achieve amazing things with amazing people … what could be more motivating than that?

If we can finally accept that the best way to control our destiny is to co-create it in real-time and with real relationships characterized by authentic and open beingwith each other … and if organizations will finally accept that the best way to realize their missions and visions is to do more with their members instead of doing things to their members, 2019 may just be a year for the record books.

The critical question:
How might you and the organizations with which you affiliate make it easier for people to connect and create with each other?

Thoughts on Growth and Strategy

Double our membership.  
Increase conference attendance by 50%. 
Triple non-dues revenue in five years.

These are a few of the growth goals I have heard tossed about in strategy conversations over the years.  If there is one common interest or goal of organizations it is getting more people or more money.

But to what end?  And at what potential cost?  Amazingly, organizations often fail to explore the short- and long-term consequences (positive and negative) of having more.

People often have strong mental models about growth.  Mine is simple: growth should enable accelerated progress on an organization’s mission and vision.  Simply getting bigger to be bigger is not strategic enough in my eyes.

When facilitating conversations about growth, the two initial questions I usually pose are:  (1) What mission-related results will more _____ (members, volunteers, conference attendees, monies, etc.) help make possible?  (2) What are the possible trade-offs involved if this growth is pursued and/or realized? 

In terms of negative consequences, organizations that pursue explosive growth sometimes fall prey to the following:

  1. Inadequate competence or capacity to scale their efforts.
  2. Incomplete criteria and/or processes for evaluating potential growth opportunities, be they partnerships or new programs.
  3. Insufficient shared clarity around what truly constitutes the organization’s core and its historic success, brand value, and market position and differentiators.

The issues raised in the three points above sometimes cause an organization to pursue opportunities that promise significant enhanced revenue streams, but are not fully aligned with its core values, market position, or competencies.

The potential negative consequences of this are several, including:

  • Diminished quality control on their existing successes which in turn can reduce market interest/demand for these programs or services, creating new financial pressures for growth.
  • Fragmenting their identity in the marketplace as prospects and/or long-term partners wonder “why are they doing that?”
  • Pursuing new opportunities because ofconvenience, timing, or personalities of those advocating for an idea versus thoughtful and consistent application of evaluation criteria.

Decision-making conversations shift from what the organization should do based on core values and strategy to what the organization could do based on available opportunities and the ease of implementing them.

None of this happens overnight; none of it is usually irreversible.  

All of it likely can be avoided by proactively addressing the three points previously outlined before launching major growth initiatives and/or new programs.

To do so, I find it effective to have staff, board members, and other volunteers discuss and apply the following observations and frameworks for organizational strategy. Notice how they differ somewhat in content and tone from traditional (and too often predictable) goal-setting. 

I invite you to try them on for size in your own discussions about strategic direction and growth.


Three Questions For a More Sustainable You

She's no longer at the right place. She's no longer in the right profession. And so she's looking for what's next. That is what I learned in a colleague's email.  And she asked for advice.

You could amass quite the collection of books on finding purpose in your life, career planning, and the like. I've read many of them, and many are quite good.

Rather than a book, I offered these three fundamental questions for her to consider and answer on her own, hoping they would help her clarify her own intentions and aspirations:
  1. How do you define a meaningful life?
  2. What resources does this definition require?
  3. How can you attain and sustain those resources?
While what do you want to be when you grow up? is the more common question, it is incomplete, focusing only on the work aspect of our overall life.  Essentially we need to start broader and then slowly narrow.

Recalibrating the meaning we seek and the means it requires will no doubt occur many times over our lives.  

We don't want to live beneath our possible meaning, nor do we want to live beyond our means.  Neither are sustainable.

The opportunity for each of us is to craft a life filled with meaning that only requires means we can sustain

This is an update of an earlier post.

Pre-Qualifying Volunteers

Smart homebuyers know it pays to get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage.  It can fast track the purchase process.

Employers often "pre-qualify" full-time hires by involving them first as interns or part-time employees.

The time has come for any organization using volunteers to pre-qualify them with self-guided virtual tutorials they can take to amass the basic information required for effective involvement.  After successfully completing a simple online self-assessment their knowledge and readiness can be officially certified; their names added to the pool of available talent; and their skills, interests, and availability captured in a searchable database to facilitate matching them with current and future opportunities..

In addition, organizations would be wise to assess whether the existing pathways to officer positions or board service are necessary prerequisites or simply time-honored traditions that have hardened into "the way it has to be done."  Committee service may or may not be an effective training ground for a board member.  Great vice-presidents don't always have the right skills for serving as president.

The bottom line? 
Organizations should build the systems and infrastructure that accelerate the identification, orientation, and engagement of as many volunteers as possible.

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