Planning in One Word for the New Year

January has begun, and for many of us, we’re eager to get started on the organizational plans and activities that we’ve outlined and budgeted for in November and December.  The painful personal introspection of making New Year’s resolutions doesn’t apply to business – we’ve already gone through that prolonged process (often with our Board) earlier this fall. Now it’s time to execute.

Yet, as I was thinking about the New Year for BrightStep Partners, I was inspired to extend those budgetary and programmatic goals and think about a different take on New Year’s resolutions that I’ve applied to my own life:

Picking one word for the New Year.

The idea has been circulating for a few years in psychological and religious circles, and the concept is simple: instead of making a list of resolutions I am bound to break – I pick one word to guide my actions and thinking in the coming year. Often it’s the first word that pops into my head. This year my personal word is “Stretch.” (Those of you who know my infamously tight hamstrings know there are multiple layers to this!)

And for BrightStep Partners? Tracy and I have been refining words the last month to try and communicate the unique perspective we have in guiding nonprofits through a strategic, transformative moment using the power of the Salesforce platform.  But what if I were to pick one word for our agency that speaks to the way I want to drive and inspire and inform our work with nonprofits in the coming year? I settled on this:

Holistic.

There are a myriad of ways to shotgun a Salesforce project and execute on the requirements. But we want to look a little deeper at make sure that an organization is setup for success for the long haul. Holistic captures for me the sense that the same solution won’t work for every organization, people are the priority, and filling knowledge gaps and strategic planning aren’t just an afterthought.

1) Context is Everything.  One of our core assets at BrightStep is looking at the whole organization and not just the artificial constraints of the Salesforce project we’re evaluating. We recently spent some time working with a nonprofit who had been struggling with user adoption, incomplete data, and lack of reportability in their Salesforce instance for years. We did an analysis, and truth be told, we could easily see $150K worth of rework to be done in their Salesforce instance and in the process of re-engaging their staff and reworking their processes to get data more easily into the system. Here’s the thing though: this organization was small but mighty, and they weren’t looking at the rapid scaling of their organization that would warrant such an investment. I realized if I were in that Executive Director’s shoes, I wouldn’t make that kind of investment given my annual budget. So we’re trying to help this nonprofit understand what IS reasonable, to achieve the results they need, given the budget and staff capacity they have.

2) I Don’t Know What I Don’t Know.  A friend of mine who has been executive director of multiple nonprofits said to me that in one case, she didn’t realize that their antiquated database (not Salesforce) would be the Achilles Heel in expanding to a second location across the country.  A core belief at BrightStep is that we want to help fill that knowledge gap and point out big issues that aren’t even on the organization’s radar yet (and help solve for them). And, knowledge transfer for us also means showing quick tricks – “Have you tried this?” – to create small wins for an organization.  I’ll never forget weeping with joy the first time I used the Cirrus Insight Google Apps plug-in and it auto-magically found contact information from an email signature and put it in Salesforce when I hit the “Create New Contact” button.

3) People Matter. A speaker at Dreamforce said astutely, you don’t sell to companies, you sell to people – and in the same way – we don’t implement Salesforce for an organization, we implement it for people.  The personalities, styles, and capacity of people have to be accounted for to achieve success. That means making sure that the non-technical project lead has the ongoing support and encouragement he or she needs to feel successful, and that the tech-savvy self-trained admin is given good advice to run with projects and take risks.

4) Every Journey Needs a Destination. One of the conversations I’ve had more times than I can count begins with something like this: “We have this Salesforce instance, but the person who set it up has left. And we don’t even know really why we have it, or why it was set up like this, but it’s broken and not working for us.” The thing about Salesforce is that it never stops growing and changing (and that’s the beauty of the platform, you can grow with it!). But adding things ad-hoc only leads one direction: a mess. We want to provide every nonprofit that we work with a strategic roadmap for Salesforce that looks forward and integrates with their broader organizational goals. You can’t reach a goal if you don’t know where you’re going.

This year, I’m going to hang my hat on Holistic to frame the way I work – taking organizational context, people, knowledge transfer and roadmaps into account whenever I have the privilege to touch an organization.

Tracy’s words for herself and BrightStep, respectively, in the new year are “Grace” and “Clarity,” but that’s another Blog.

What’s your Word for the New Year? Can you pick one that frames the way you want to be in your organization? Your professional life, or your personal life?

Happy 2015!

Megan Himan has over fifteen years experience in the nonprofit sector and over ten years working on the force.com platform. She has a unique combination of deep technical skills paired with an ability to strategically convene groups, coach executives and leadership through transitions, and execute on project deliverables. She is Founder & Principal of BrightStep Partners - solutions with strategy for nonprofit success.

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Posted in Leadership, Organizational Management, Planning

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