CASE STUDY: IMPROVING SPEED AND AGILITY

A nonprofit association is frustrated by the sluggishness of their decision-making, and gets the insights that give them the ability to impact their speed.

PROBLEM

A medium-sized association was standing on great potential, based in a compelling mission, passionate volunteers, and deep expertise among staff, yet internal friction and conflicting approaches to getting the work done were slowing them down. Their members were counting on the association to lead, to keep the members ahead of the curve, but internal misalignment was getting in the way.

SOLUTION

As a result of running the Workplace Genome, staff were able to understand underlying paradoxes within their culture - this gave them the insights to make important shifts in their internal processes to unlock new speed in their decision making.

After running the Workplace Genome, the association received data that revealed some interesting patterns related to transparency. Several of the Transparency Building Blocks were noticeably outside their “contemporary” score averages, instead sitting more in line with “traditional” management scores. When scores fall outside the core, we seek to understand what might be going on there, as these may be areas that need attention. In this case, the traditional scores were in how the association’s employees were confronting conflict, and in the depth and breadth of internal information sharing. Not only were the scores more traditional, the Genome showed how they were also being experienced differently among different groups inside the staff.

As the team started digging into this, they developed an important insight. The level of information being shared internally turned out NOT to be the driver of this issue—instead, the disconnect was based in different expectations of who should know what and why. This organization had developed a pattern over the years where decisions required input from a large variety of staff from different areas, which meant that for any given decision, they were likely to have people involved who did not have adequate information (since the decision was not particularly related to their everyday work). That meant that the demand for information was forever outstripping the supply, even though they were actively trying to share more internally. Furthermore, it was slowing them down. Too many cooks in the kitchen made it harder to move things along, and their members were noticing.

Armed with this insight, they pivoted to focus on decision making instead of information sharing. By clarifying their understanding of who makes the decision, who needs to be consulted before a decision is made, and who gets informed after the decision is made, they essentially lowered the demand for information. They translated this into a core Cultural Priorities for the organization:

“Everyone has a voice, but not everyone decides.”

In other words, they were going to be disciplined about the decision-making process, without violating some of their important cultural values around inclusion. Based on that priority, they developed a Play in their Culture Upgrade Playbook around implementing the RACI model for decision making, and combined that with a separate Play around providing conflict resolution training to enable staff to work through differences more quickly.

The impact of the shift is still playing out for this organization, but staff have reported that the clarity is enabling faster decision making, which has resulted in getting resources out to members ahead of when they need them—a key driver of this association’s success. 

Learn more about the Workplace Genome.