Monday, August 25, 2008

Mission and Values case study

Last week, I had the pleasure of facilitating a strategy retreat for Nexus, a nonprofit that provides a variety of services, primarily residential, to troubled teens and their families.

As you might expect, Nexus is financially dependent on government revenue, and the staff and board are considering diversifying to other services, other geographic markets, etc.

The strategy session ran on Tuesday night and Wednesday through about 2:00PM and included 21 senior staff and 6 board members. We went through the usual discussion of organizational status, SWOTs, national trends, a decision tree, and key markets. We closed with a prioritization process that allowed everyone to contribute.

Sounds pretty normal, at least for those of you who are involved in planning, right?

Not at all.

From the get-go, these people were focused on a number of important things.

First their mission "To change lives through our cornerstone values" and those values: "Honesty, responsibility, courage, care and concern".

I asked the group who could recite their mission and the values, and not only did they tell me that pretty much all their staff could, but that in treatment sessions the consumers (again, troubled teens) would be asked every evening what they or someone else had done that emulated their values.

In the retreat discussions that followed, ideas that were floated often received pushback based on one value or another. This discussion was vigorous, and very much aimed at resolving conflict based on the mission/value framework.

Wow. This is exactly what I talk about ---living your mission, living your values, dealing with decisions based on those key items. In fact, this month's Mission-Based Management Newsletter is about Vision, Mission, Values, but Nexus puts my thoughts into action.

And, Nexus takes it a step further. They have strategic, long-standing Key Focus Areas (KFAs) that guide their planning (they show up in each treatment location's plan) as follows:

1. Raise the standards of clinical and educational competence.
2. Develop, recognize and invest in the potential of our staff.
3. Adapt, diversify and grow.
4. Promote Nexus and build external relationships.
5. Improve technical competence.
6. Provide respectful physical environments for consumers and staff.

These are great and not just words on paper. The organization really is focused on these, and tries their best to live them. The KFAs are not short term--they provide the over-arching strategic focus that so many organizations (for profit as well as nonprofit) are lacking.

Congrats to the Nexus leadership, both volunteer and paid, for being a role model for other organizations as they consider their next strategic steps. I'm impressed.

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