The Advantage of Social Enterprise

Rob Greenland over at The Social Business has written a piece about how the ‘table’ that social enterprise has fought so hard to get a place at has collapsed.  I am assuming Rob means the table where policy is thrashed out and funds are allocated.

The high political table.

The table of the bureaucrats and the planners.

Rob’s analysis is that this table has collapsed.  They have no cash to spend since the bankers have grabbed it all.  So “What is a social entrepreneur meant to do now?” Rob asks.

Well I think the collapse of this table could be just the tonic that the social enterprise sector needs.

The sectors’ advantage is not in being a cheaper route to market for bureaucrats  – implementing their policies and plans (although this may be a legitimate benefit it CAN offer).  Its’ advantage lies in the ability of social entrepreneurs to tell stories of social change, social injustice and progress. In being able to attract, retain and develop talented and committed people who share in the vision and have the potential to manifest it.  In harnessing the potential of those affected by injustice and using it to drive progress.

So instead of trying to manoeuvre to catch the crumbs from the top table perhaps the sector should focus on sharpening vision, improving stories, and building a movement that people will want to join and work in because of its autonomy, independence and creativity; its ability to provide fulfillment and a decent wage – not because of the funding streams that it can secure (along with KPIs, evaluation frameworks and other game playing  inducements attendant with the mainstream).

When we are sat at the top table we have our backs to the real social enterprise marketplace.

Of course the sector needs to maintain good relationships with the ‘top table’.  It needs to influence, lobby, advise and occasionally disrupt.  If it can secure investment on its terms than so much the better.  But it needs to ensure that the money and power available does not corrupt – as it so often has.  That the pull of the cash does not lure us away from core purpose and beliefs.  That it does not allow us to kid ourselves that the latest funding stream to ‘do things to people’ might just work – this time – if we can only get our hands on the cash.  The social enteprise sector has to have the guts to be uncompromising on vision, values and beliefs.  It has to maintain integrity.

This requires the sector to develop an entreprenurial management and leadership culture.  A progressive mindset.  Progressive management.  Not Political.

The social entrepreneur needs to be comfortable and competent at managing and leading through vision, values, social goals and objectives and then relying on creativity and innovation to secure sustainable investments.  They must be obsessed with the social change they are trying to deliver and the recruitment and retention of a tribe of professionals and volunteers who can help.  Not with reading the political runes.  They need to promote change, not maintenance, autonomy not dependence (on the top or any other table), courage not conventionality.

The advantage of social enterprise is that it can be transformational.  People will join a transformational movement and bring to it their passion, creativity and hard work.  Turn it into another transactional part of the prevailing bureaucracy and this advantage will be lost.

And finally of course any organisation can be a social enterprise regardless of structure.  Many ‘for profits’ have learned how to create social change and a sustainable profit!

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Conscripts, mercenaries, and volunteers

Willing volunteers outperform conscripts and mercenaries every time. They are more innovative and creative as well more diligent and disciplined.

Volunteers have bought into a mission and a purpose rather then been bought into it.

Much of the private sector is struggling with how to turn salaried staff from conscripts and mercenaries into volunteers. Finding ways to engage them in the work of the organisation. To provide them with fulfilling and rewarding work.

Much of the public and third sector seems to be taking almost exactly the opposite path. It finds ways to turn passionate and caring volunteers (people who have bought into the mission) into conscripts and mercenaries. This is achieved by:

  • making them servants of the system rather than servants of their customers
  • imposing performance management systems that often fail to recognise quality service delivery
  • entering into inflexible and output related contracts for service delivery that shrink opportunities for innovation and improvement
  • managing them as if they are units of production rather than as caring and compassionate people full of insights into how to improve performance.

It is a strange paradox that many private sector clients are making genuine efforts at developing employee engagement in pursuit of profits while so many third sector and public sector organisations are developing processes and systems that alienate employees and volunteers in pursuit of efficiency.

Goals, Priorities and Resources; where does it all go wrong?

Spending time developing and clarifying goals is rarely time wasted. Although some of us spend time clarifying our work goals few of us spend time developing goals for other important aspects of our lives – family, community and self. This is one of the reasons why we find work-life balance so hard to achieve. Goals that have been set in our professional lives are not balanced by goals in other areas. The goals that we have set start to demand creativity and resources and before we know it…

Sometimes we set goals that do not provide clear priorities. Or they provide us with so many priorities that we may as well have no priorities at all. Priorities are immediate next steps that will move us closer to our goals. Good priorities are ones that we cannot fail to address. They are so simple and appealing that they cry out for us to get on with them.

But often we forget to allocate time and other resources to our priorities. Without resources to go with them our priorities are worthless. Without doubt time is the most precious resource that we can commit to a priority. I often find myself working with senior managers to clarify goals and priorities (no more than three or four at a time) and then schedule time in busy diaries to spend on them.

By scheduling two 90 minute blocks of time every week to work on priorities many managers ‘magically’ start to make tangible progress towards goals that had previously frustrated them.

Building a High Performing Team – Part 2 – Anticipate Conflicts

Organisation divides people. It sets up conflict:

  • Who does what? – task conflicts
  • How do we get this done? – process conflicts
  • Who gets what? – resource conflicts

Failure to anticipate, recognise and resolve these conflicts leads to the most dangerous conflicts of all – personal conflicts.

Two people in conflict can usually both make a plausible case for their position. You can of course handle these conflicts just by issuing a decree. However the value of a high performing team, and the measure of your ability to manage it is in getting a decision that has allowed everyone to have their say, for pros and cons to be fully explored and for commitment to making the decision work to be built.

Handled like this, conflicts become powerful team building tools as people start to recognise that the group can make better decisions than any one individual and that no one person has all the information required to make the best decision.

Building the Social System for High Performance

Whenever you see an organisation doing something consistently well, you can be sure that there is an effective social system behind it. The social system is made up of both a hard and a soft landscape. The hard landscape is that of meetings, information flows and decision making processes. The soft landscape is to do with behaviours, attitudes, values, respect and commitment.

Effective managers recognise their role in developing both the hard and soft landscapes of the social system – but recognise that it is the soft landscape – the way people and teams work together that really drives culture and performance.

When trying to initiate change, less effective managers work on the hard landscape. They change the organisational structure, replace key people or alter what is measured and rewarded. While such changes maybe necessary, they are NEVER sufficient.

It is the interactions between people that need to be changed, the information flows and the decision making processes. If people are not having the right discussions or behaving in ways that drive values and performance then the managers’ job is to influence them to adopt different ‘value creating’ behaviours.

In most cases this can be done using feedback. In other cases it may require more concerted efforts at coaching for the desired behaviours.

Recognising and shaping the behaviours that drive values and performance is the hallmark of an outstanding manager.

The social system changes and enables the organisation to perform consistently well because managers use mechanisms that ensure that the right conversations happen consistently and frequently. These conversations improve the quality of decision making and encourage behaviours in people’s every day work to accomplish the elusive goal of culture change.

Personal e-mail and reflections on transformation, humanity and compassion!

I got  a wonderful e-mail this morning from an old friend, Jim McLaughlin.

In it he said:

I love this marriage of science and heart.

It’s where the human potential movement meets good organisational practices.  In fact, if people in organisations were enabled to be their best human selves – loving, forgiving, caring, open, courageous – there would be wonderful organisations.  But somehow we change the rules of what is expected when someone brings their work self into the office/hospital/factory.”

Now why didn’t I put it like that!

One of the real sources of advantage is the ability to retain humanity and compassion while developing excellent organisational practices.  However this is a trick that many organisations with ‘transactional’ rather than ‘transformational’ cultures have managed to miss.

On a good day I would like to think that the compassion and humanity that attracts so many of us to third sector would make this transformation trick a straightforward one to play.   However the evidence suggests that many organisations in third sector quickly become as transactional as so many of their private and public sector cousins

Thanks Jim!

Sue Wiley on Why and How PMN Works for Her

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Sue Wylie is the office manager at re’new in Leeds.

She has attended four PMN workshops and has used much of what we have covered in her work.  In this podcast she talks about PMN and how it works for her.

Sue explains why;

  • she thought she would never have enough time for 121s – but now would not be without them, and
  • how 121s actually save her time and avoid interruptions in her working day
  • how the principles and practices have driven progress in her team
  • the impact that 121s with her manager have had in her

You can listen to the podcast here.

Enjoy!

Many thanks Sue!

If you have attended PMN training and benefitted from it, and would like to make a podcast with me – just let me know!  You could become an iTunes star!