From Chaos to Calm: Operational Excellence

When the United States shut down in March of 2020 because of COVID-19, so many organizations were thrust into chaos. Very few had a structure or roadmap for dealing with the complete shift in operations to a virtual setting or safe in person.

While many of us have settled into a routine now – one that is a shift that is here to stay or one that still feels temporary – many of us also unsure if the structures and systems that we rapidly pulled together are the best way of doing things.

Miriam Dicks with 180 Management Group led the July meeting of Greenville Partnership for Philanthropy and NonProfit Alliance and shared frameworks for thinking about bringing calm to chaos for operational excellence.

Miriam said the top five concerns of organizations during covid were funding and financial management; staffing and support; virtual structures; donor/client management; and engagement.  But she said that a healthy organizational culture can reduce the chaos in operations.

She said that depending on the culture, the roles for people, processes, planning and priorities can range from undefined to clear and well-managed.  In an ideal operational culture:

  • Titles, roles, and accountability are clearly defined
  • Policy, procedures, and reporting are valued
  • Data is available for strategic planning to help the organization know what to do, and
  • Strategic planning drives priorities.

How is your organizational culture?  Miriam offered some signs of a poor organizational culture:

  • Suspicion among employees and volunteers
  • New programs start strong but then fizzle out
  • Poor employee engagement
  • Dropped services or service gaps
  • Management cliques
  • Tenure over talent
  • Reporting only as request and not for planning
  • Relationship over performance

There are tools to move an organization along a continuum of operational excellence.  The process includes assessing, prioritizing, and implementing.

Thanks to Miriam Dicks for an informative and lively session!


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