Friday, November 21, 2008

A Most Dangerous Question

Is your organization redundant?
If you were being totally honest and no one else had to hear what you said, could you convince yourself that what you are currently doing couldn't be done as well or better by someone else?

The way you answer this question is pretty revealing. If you can't quickly point to some strategic niche or unique approach there is a good chance that you aren't fulfilling your needed role in the big picture of nonprofit/ministry work.

That's not to say you should delete the website and shut down the office, but you should invest some effort in figuring out what it is that you are uniquely ready, willing, or able to do.

Within ten minutes of my home there are at least fifteen Protestant churches, and to my knowledge none of them are full. In Canada there are at least 3 organizations working to provide specific leadership training to the particular market of Christian women. At any given university there are multiple campus organizations committed to expressing the truth and grace of Jesus. Ontario has dozens of Christian summer camps. There are multiple emerging leader programs, church planting groups, intensive ministry leadership programs, microfinance providers, and granting foundations. Someone has to ask if all of them are truly needed.

Repetition is expensive. When it adds no value it is also wasteful.

Organizations and individuals would serve all of us well by having a very raw consideration of what they uniquely bring to the community and whether they are meeting real needs or just sustaining the incomes or egos of their staff and leaders.

I suspect that in reality there is need for more, not less, in most areas. The needs in our society and around the world are enormous and varied.

What is not needed is mindless mimickry and pointless sameness.

One of the values we hold highly at Catalyst is synergy. On a weekly basis we review how we have been able to bring together separate entities for the betterment of all. It's hard to do that if the separate entities are essentially identical.

A challenge: Ask your organization's leaders to (in five minutes or less) articulate clearly what it is about you that is distinct from other similar organizations and why things would truly be worse if you ceased operations.

The responses to that exercise will tell you more about where you should invest time, money, and energy than almost any strategic consultant.


darian kovacs said...

a great question to ask. don posterski led an amazing seminar at the CCCC conference a couple years back ALL about your question. you should have heard the gasps in the room when he asked the room of organizational leaders and board members.
probably the most inspiring/motivating/sobering seminar i'd heard before.


Mark Petersen said...

Preach it, brotha!

You ask great, bold questions which we need to contemplate.

dlc said...

Hi Chris ... been following you from afar ( literally Victoria, BC and via Mark P ) for a few months now.

Thanks for this post. Having gone through a significant organizational transformation 2004-2007 one of the same/similar questions was put to us by an objective outside consultant was ... "if your ministry disappeared, would anyone even notice?" ... ouch. But a great reality check.

Wonder if we could dig up the 'Poz' seminar Darian referred too? that would be a pozcast, right?