I’ve been thinking a lot about the need to address culture change at the process level.
While leaders often try to kick-start culture change with broad, company-wide initiatives, the reality of culture is in the processes and procedures of the day to day. Individuals draw conclusions about what an organization values by observing work processes, evaluation systems and resource allocation decisions. So as a leader, you have a much better chance of making meaningful change by focusing your attention on those things.
What does this have to do with the antiquated computers, piecemeal reporting systems and hand-me-down phone systems that are found in many non-profits? I believe the lack of proper tools illustrates the culture of scarcity that pervades those organizations and can also be a first step in mitigating it.
As a former non-profit administrator, I am well aware that scarcity is a reality. There are rarely enough funds to meet the community need, leaders are under pressure from funders to keep administrative costs unrealistically low, and the funds that are available are rightly prioritized for direct service. I get all that. But I also think that the scarcity mentality leads to complacency and the acceptance of a lower standard.
Team members need the proper tools and resources to do their jobs. Ignoring this leads to a culture that undervalues employees while simultaneously expecting them to perform miracles. Mission-driven organizations depend on the passion of committed employees and volunteers. But passion only goes so far. Hit too many roadblocks in your daily work and eventually passion will burn out.
If you want to change your culture of scarcity, start at the most basic level. Consider what tools would help your team do their job better and focus your attention there. Is top-of-the-line hardware realistic, or even necessary? Probably not. But demonstrating to employees, even in small ways, that you care about making their jobs easier goes a long way.
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