SKILLFUL MEANS INC
STRATEGY & ORGANIZATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Skillful Means' strategy and organizational development practice focuses on facilitating agreement. Agreement on direction... on structure... on processes, roles & policies... on expected outcomes & performance indicators...
Our main clients are international foundations and nonprofits focused on addressing pressing social, political and environmental challenges.
Our particular skill is helping clients map clear pathways through institutional and environmental complexity and helping them design systems and processes which ensure the institution remains focused on its objectives.
Practically, we focus on five areas:
The majority of our work with institutions focuses on helping set direction. We use a number of tools -- notably scenario development, rigorous visioning, value articulation, and logical frameworks -- to assist clients in articulating a set of objectives and clarifying the strategy choices which will deliver these objectives.
• Advising on bylaws and articles of incorporation
• Drafting board policies and roles
• Orienting board members to roles and responsibilities
• Developing consent calendars to focus board attention on highest priority items
• Developing job descriptions for CEO and other senior staff
• Working with boards and executive recruiters on CEO search
• Developing organization structures which fit strategic priorities
• Developing job descriptions and performance indicators
• Interviewing staff for senior positions; evaluating candidates
• Evaluating accounting/financial management systems (from simple - Quickbooks - to moderately complex - MS Dynamics)
• Setting up appropriate nonprofit charts of account
• Interviewing and evaluating finance managers / chief accountants
• Developing organizational budgeting templates
• Evaluating and overseeing customization of grant management systems (e.g., GIFTS, Microsoft Grants Manager)
• Evaluating and overseeing customization of information management systems (e.g. Sharepoint, Basecamp, Drupal/Plone-based systems)
• Drafting job descriptions, measures of performance, evaluation systems
• Developing operational policies - grantmaking, procurement, expenditures, delegations of authority
• Leadership development, collaborative leadership, facilitative leadership
• Meeting management, change management
• Grant making, evaluation
Skillful Means, Inc has been involved in all aspects of setting up organizational structure and operational systems, including:
Foundations and nonprofits -- particularly those working on complex and persistent issues -- face particular challenges in evaluating the degree to which they are attaining the results expected. Most evaluation methodologies leave participants fearful and uninspired and rarely yield useful insights.
Evaluation and learning are the poor cousins to strategy planning, operations and routine monitoring.
Particularly in the nonprofit sector, where the problems being addressed are complex, where the intervention may take years to bear fruit and where results may be hard to quantify, "evaluation" may be a concept fraught with risk. This is unfortunate, since without honest evaluation there is little learning.
Skillful Means help make evaluation a learning tool in several ways:
1. Assessing effectiveness of programs:
An analytical framework approach to planning helps ensure that managers think in terms of outcomes (objectives) which they can achieve and impact (overarching goals) which achievable outcomes can deliver.
A complete approach ensures that monitoring and honest assessment are included in the overall implementation plan, directly linked to outcomes and activities. In this way, managers are not surprised by what assessors are looking at several years into a project.
2. Assessing organizational effectiveness
A variety of tools have been developed over the past decade to assist board members, senior staff and key clients to assess the strength of nonprofit organizations.
A variation we have found particularly useful is the Marguerite Casey Foundation Organizational Capacity Assessment Tool, itself derived from the Capacity Assessment Grid created by McKinsey and Company for Venture Philanthropy Partners in 2001. The tool is easily adapted to particular organizational circumstances.
Tools such as the OCAT will yield information on strengths and structural weaknesses within the organization. It will highlight areas which require focus from the board and senior management.