Four months ago, I took over leadership of my program at a large local nonprofit organization after my predecessor left what he called “a sinking ship.” As the program’s new leader, I discovered that we lacked a strategy and had accordingly become overextended by saying “yes” to everything regardless of its fit. In response, I began a process of trying to determine which activities we should engage in and which activities we should not. Accordingly, I found Building Your Company’s Vision particularly valuable for helping me build a framework to assess what we should engage in.
Interestingly, our team actually tried to define our core values, core purpose, BHAG, and vivid description last year under my predecessor. However, the process was never completed, and we took some missteps along the way. For example, many of the values we considered were not truly core values. Most concerning, however, is that we never truly defined a core purpose, which is one reason that we continue to engage in activities that are not a strategic fit. Unsurprisingly, then, we discussed a BHAG that was based on unbridled expansion rather than one that actually made sense for our program. Having read this article, I would like to meet with my team in the coming months to truly define our core ideology and to envision our future so that these pieces can guide future action.
Besides guiding future action, these concepts resonated with me as a way to communicate with my team about what we do. I would like them to understand the central purpose of our work rather than to view our work as a collection of loosely-related activities. Furthermore, since we are planning to hire at least two additional people by August, these tools allow me to clearly articulate to job candidates what our program is trying to achieve. As the article indicated, it is essential to have a team that supports and will work towards your core purpose.
While I value core values, core purpose, BHAG, and vivid description as new tools to help guide my program, I am still trying to determine how to apply them in the nonprofit context. Traditionally, nonprofits are expected to articulate their mission, vision, and values. I do not know to what extent the elements identified in the article directly translate to those three pieces and what nuances may exist when defining a nonprofit organization or program. Presumably, the core purpose is roughly equivalent to the mission, the core values are the values, and the envisioned future is the vision. However, I would appreciate guidance on how to translate core ideology and envisioned future for a nonprofit audience.
-- Alex Rice