Chaos is, by definition, a state of confusion and a lack of order. Chaos often goes undetected as it is considered the norm in a workplace, not the exception. Few people will freely admit that they operate in a chaotic environment. Instead, they might talk about how busy they are or how they feel stressed. It may be evident in the number of staff sick days or comments about the workload piling up and deadlines being missed. If your desk is piled high with paper or you spend your time running from meeting to meeting without any apparent results, chaos is taking hold of your life.
In some instances, staff complaints will be justified, but in most cases chaos is playing a role. Chaos is expensive and has a tangible cost. These costs don’t show up with an invoice attached but they are paid for on a daily basis. The hidden costs of chaos add up to a significant number of dollars through the loss of time and information and let’s not forget missed opportunities.
Over many years, the not-for-profit community has transitioned from volunteer to staff-based operations. This transition has created fluid systems—volunteer boards come and go along with the ebb and flow of staff changeover. In working with charities, The Batsch Group has seen the effects of this fluidity.
In no way is this discussion intended to focus blame or point fingers. Rather, the desired outcome is to engage in change that will benefit a charity and its staff.
A colleague asked if I thought change in the nonprofit world was really possible. The answer lies with each individual and their organization and whether they are committed to effecting positive change.
If you’re thinking “I’ve heard this before,” I would say that the key is to not give lip service to the fact that chaos exists but to identify problem areas and create a more productive environment to counter it, using solutions which are practical and easy to implement. Chaos creates speed bumps affect each and every staff member - making goal setting and attainment a long and tiring trip.
There are elements of chaos in every business. Where chaos is more prevalent than order, you recognize it and act. The key is to first find where chaos thrives; then eradicate it by introducing documented methods to support change. Over time, these changes become inherent to your regular business practices and will entrench a culture by which the charity conducts successful fund development activities.
Leadership – Order – Staffing – Training
To reach new levels of performance it is important to understand the value of the information a charity collects and manages.
Data-based information builds a foundation of knowledge that defines how a charity and its team members work together. Chaos undermines a team and creates discord. In this situation, it is easy to become lost. To help you understand where chaos begins, we use the L.O.S.T. acronym – Leadership, Order, Staffing and Training; four key areas where chaos can infiltrate a work group and introduce unproductive behaviours.
Nonprofit organizations typically have a “leader” in the form of a CEO or executive director. Leadership, in the context of what we are addressing, is based on a defined set of policies, procedures and practices used to manage an organization and its departments. Where there is no universal definition outlining expectations, no leadership exists. Without goals and objectives the charity and its fund development program are at risk.
The buck stops at the top of the organizational pyramid. When a senior executive makes it apparent that the managers reporting to them have specific job requirements defined by the charity, it makes assessing department performance and effectiveness less subjective. Department managers in turn, are able to provide their staff with job expectations and performance requirements. Maintaining consistency in how jobs are performed protect the organization from risky actions.
Excerpt—From Chaos to Control, published by Civil Sector Press.
Sharron Batsch BSc is the developer of @EASE Fund Development Software and the author of "From Chaos to Control - Build a High Performance Team Using Knowledge Management" Contact her, firstname.lastname@example.org.