Saturday, April 2, 2011

Blog 3 - Capitalizing on Capabilities as applied to the NAACP Harvard Business School Case 9-398-039

Introduction: The Harvard Business School case study 9-398-039 details how the NAACP started to crumble in the 1990's and seemed to be moving away from its strength of focusing on civil rights policies. When the organization became embroiled in financial scandals, as well as others, it became apparent that focus on competencies that organization excelled at needed to be brought back to forefront of its strategy.

Relevance: The "Capitalizing on Capabilities" article demonstrates that an organization can put itself at a competitive advantage if it can focus on what it does best to achieve its mission. The main lessons that need to be learned from this article are as follows: 1) Get focused 2) Recognize the interdependance of capabilities 3) Learn from the best 4) Create a virtuous cycle of assessment and investment 5) Compare capability perceptions 6) Match capability with delivery 7) Avoid underinvestment in organization intangibles 8) Don't confuse capabilities with activities. When the NAACP was going through its hard times it was apparent that the leadership lost focus on the core competencies of the organization and became more self-serving.

The Chairman, at the time of the problems, was Dr. W.E. Gibson. Dr. Gibson did not like opposition and vied for control rather than truly helping the organization. If he was opposed he would try to eliminate the opposition and he would also try to reward those who seemed loyal to him. Rather than focusing on civil rights policies Dr. Gibson and Reverend Benjamin Chavis, Jr. (Executive Director of the NAACP were more focused on consolidating power. This led to financial mismanagement and scandal.

Eventually, the NAACP Board elected new leadership to right the ship. Myrlie Evers-Williams was elected as the new Chairman of the Board and went to work immediately to restore the NAACP to "its glorious history of integrity and power." Ms. Williams was able to do this by getting focused on what the NAACP did well and to make sure that the different "parts" of the organization functioned as a team so that they could leverage the interdependence of their capabilities. Her main points of focus were to build effective teams to work on civil rights policies and to reestablish its fund raising capabilities. Ms. Williams, as well as other Board members and regional managers focused on cleaning the image of the NAACP and reconnecting with big donors. She was also "learned from the best" by mirroring a code of conduct created by the United Way after it had a public scandal of its own. The new code of conduct "was designed such that Board members could not wittingly or unwittingly put themselves into a position that compromised the organization." During this time Kweisi Mfume was appointed "President and CEO" of the NAACP instead of the "Executive Director" so he could focus the organization back on civil right issues. To get the organization focused on civil rights issues he created a five point policy focused on the following: 1) Civil rights and civil liberties 2) Voter empowerment 3) Educational excellence 4) Economic development 5) Young people. Through these efforts, Ms. Williams and Mr. Mfume were able to restore the NAACP to prominence. Although, they did not focus on all of the lessons learned in the "Capitalizing on Capabilities" article the new leadership did incorporate some of the lessons to help the organization get back on its feet and prosper.

Question: Other than creating a new code of conduct, reestablishing fund raising ties, and refocusing on civil rights issues what else could the leadership of the NAACP done at the time of it problems to "capitlize on its capabilities" better to bring the organization back to prominence?

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