When considering the operations of your nonprofit organisation you might consider the following adage – Outcomes, Planning, Systems and Processes.
From the outset any operational decisions should be aligned to your strategic direction or outcomes. The question being, how will this process contribute to achieving those goals?
Secondly there should be a plan setting out the actions your people will take to achieve those outcomes, including the person(s) responsible and the time frame. This plan should be a result of a collaborative decision making process by your management group or senior people. They should be held accountable for implementing this plan and they should report back to the CEO on progress towards implementing the plan.
A role of management is to remove the barriers that prevent people from being effective. This requires a series of integrated and overlapping systems to be in place; governance, financial, management, human resources, service delivery, quality and improvement. A systematic approach ensures your people are able to do the things that contribute towards achieving your strategic goals. A systems approach minimises wastage, avoids people engaging in activities that do not contribute to outcomes. Systems enable people do the things set out in your operational plan. Systems also provide your people with structure, direction and assurance they are doing what is expected of them.
Lastly there should be processes in place to ensure people do the right thing; that being those activities that directly contribute to achieving strategic outcomes. These processes include, clear processes for understanding what is expected of people, work planning, standards for recruitment, core training, professional development and remuneration, processes for engaging with stakeholders, obtaining client feedback, completing case notes and processes for reporting on activities, progress and outcomes. Reporting processes should be structured in such a way that people can link their activities back to the operational plan and the strategic direction. In this way they can identify how they add value to the organisation.
You might consider operational elements to be the foundations of your organisation. I refer to it as the building blocks. Without the right foundations your organisation will be unable to withstand the bad times; it may never become strong enough to be sustainable.
Effective operations isn’t the responsibility of a single person, it is everyone’s responsibility. It helps though if you have someone designated with oversight of operational matters. Someone to bring together all the elements.
One mistake often made is to confuse operations with daily activities such as admin or IT or facilities management. Yes those activities can be a part of the overall operations process, they are also tasks that may be performed by well developed administration officer or a sub contractor. Truely effective operations management is when someone is responsible for bringing together all the elements that contribute on a daily basis towards achievement of your strategic outcomes. In small organisations that may be a part of the CEO’s role.
As a part of our services I offer a contract operations manager role. Someone that brings the knowledge and experience of an experienced operations manager to your organisation as and when you need it. This is particularly suitable for those nonprofits generating less than $5M in revenue, where there isn’t a need, or resources, to employ a full time operations manager. For smaller organisations with revenue less than $3M this services is available through our organisational e-mentor service.
Since 2002 John Coxon has worker with nonprofit organisations and managers, helping them to be the best they want to be. When you are ready to work with John email firstname.lastname@example.org and I will call you back to arrange a free, no-obligation chat.