Project Groups

There are day-to-day activities and there are projects. Nonprofits are organized around daily activities. Most of the time each department has the skills and experiences to be highly successful. Success is assured when teams are carefully recruited, have been working together for a while, and are well trained.

Projects are ad hoc activities. Most are of a relatively short duration and recur infrequently if at all. The short duration makes training the group or individuals impractical. Therefore, the effectiveness and the efficiency of the group depends on the skills and experience each member brings to the group. Recruiting the members is the key to success.

Project groups need a broad blend of skills, knowledge, and traits. Most groups need skills like the ability to persuasively present ideas, analyze complex issues, think strategically (looking at the big picture), plan, problem solve, etc. Some members of the team will possess multiple skills. Others may have only one skill that is important to the current project. Groups also need working knowledge of areas their project touches like accounting, finance, service delivery, technology, fundraising, and marketing. Alternatively a group might have part-time members who can provide knowledge when needed. Sometimes the knowledge is needed to inform the development and to prepare the results for users. While marketing is unnecessary for developing a new service, developing a service with an understanding of how it will be presented to the public and stakeholders improves the potential for the service to be accepted and supported. Some traits that are usually important for success are creativity, tenacity, linear thinking, non-linear thinking, discipline, flexibility, and open mindedness. Demographic diversity is important just like a diversity of skills, knowledge, and traits.

The best solutions come when a problem is well understood. Mistakenly assuming that one must increase sales to increase profits may predispose the group to look for marketing solutions such as better advertising. However, the best solution might be increasing efficiency, which reduces costs and increases profits. Since the goal is fixed (increase profits in this example), success depends on seeing many possible paths to the goal, which depends on having a diversity of skills, knowledge, and traits.

Next Step:

Define the problem you want to solve

Determine the diversity of skills, knowledge, and traits needed for project success

Define success using the long-term outcomes rather than the near-term results

The near-term results of every project are completion on time, within budget, and achieving the initial goals. In the preceding example, the near-term is increased profits. Without knowing what the long-term outcome was or could have been, it is hard to determine if the long-term outcomes will be achieved or the near-term results will be durable.

Many times the changes in the surrounding environment impact a project’s potential for success. With a diverse project team, there is a higher probability that the team will be able to adapt to the new environment without it significantly impacting the project’s timeline, resource requirements, or results.

The diversity of the group is the key to having a successful project with durable value.

Take It Further:

Remind the board that everything it does is a project (the committees and staff should be handling the normal activities)

Require your board development committee and board personnel committee to think about the diversity needs of your nonprofit when recruiting new members


Comments are closed.