I could not agree more. Here, Mary Hall is arguing for the primacy of organizational culture, and I am so excited to read and re-read this piece, maybe every day:
A positive culture is modeled at the top, and executive directors set the pace. Values can help to guide the creation of a positive organizational culture. I recommend that an organization establish its values and expect commitment to the values by incorporating them into hiring, decision making and performance reviews. Talk about your values and reward and recognize behaviors that demonstrate commitment to them. Maintain transparent and frequent communications. Establish a conflict resolution process and teach leadership how to manage the inevitable relationship conflicts. Hold people accountable and acknowledge and celebrate team success.
The nonprofit sector is based on acts of kindness and charity, and let’s remember that charity begins at “home” in the organizational cultures we create.
When I first started writing on this blog, I posted a question, basically, is the nonprofit sector hopelessly broken? This kind of thinking and re-orientation towards healthy, sustainable, well-managed organizations gives me a lot of hope. Mary Hall, you give me hope. ASU-Lodestar, you give me hope. Organizations with healthy cultures give me hope.
Values and mission cannot only be practiced externally. They must be practiced internally as well. They must be practiced at every level of the organization, and modeled by all the leadership, not just the Executive Director. A charismatic leader who is passionate about mission, vision, and internal operations will only be able to foster a healthy and vibrant organizational culture if the department heads deputized to enact those principles are equally passionate about making the insides match the outsides. It can’t only trickle down from the top, it has to be practiced every day on every level. To employ a terribly obvious metaphor: I feel better when I eat healthy, organic food that I cook myself and get regular exercise, rather than eating fast food and lying around watching cable TV all day. Organizational culture is the same damn thing. Thinking about investing in staff, training, expansive thinking, innovative problem solving and conflict resolution methodologies, and the like, as the healthy food and exercise that make an organization strong and vibrant helps me to see the value in investing in these practices. You also can’t “juice cleanse” you way to organizational health. Again, this is a consistent, everyday kind of challenge, not a once a year externally facilitated staff retreat type of deal. Organizational culture lives in the small choices, the day-to-day, and the quiet expressions of gratitude, commitment and support.
Organizations that ignore the internal structures, policies, human resource practices, and professional development opportunities that can build healthy organizational culture are, I firmly believe, doomed to 1) repeat past failures and 2) execute their mission inefficiently.
This is why I want to learn to be a better manager, a better worker, a better nonprofit administrator, and a more patient and dedicated colleague in the field–so I can help build organizations like the ones described (or envisioned) in this article.