Sometimes you work on an issue that you can see as clearly as the blue sky when you look straight up; but when you look straight ahead, there’s “FOG” everywhere. How do you ever reach that blue sky objective? First understand that the "FOG" is of your own creation. Inadvertently, you have missed - avoided - forgot - some fundamental in whatever process you are undertaking. The FOG will only thicken and hamper reaching your blue-sky objective, unless you recognize what is causing your fog. Here are a couple of instances where it appears that FOG may have clouded the vision of executive directors (EDs). Have you ever been caught in a similar situation?
Case 1: Board Development
ED: “We have the analysis of our needs and our present board members’ profiles, so how do I find future prospects? Where do I find them?”
CAT: “As a start, in your next discussion with your board chair…”
ED: “Ahhhhhhh, well we don't really meet." (followed by several excuses).
FOG ALERT! Board development is a Team Sport! The communication issue with the board chair and other members must be resolved first.
REMEDY: The ED needs to meet with the Chair and suggest setting up a
nominating committee that could work on both the strategy for gaining new board prospects and on nominating next years’ Officer slate. The ED should suggest a board member that could do the job and would accept being the nominating committee Chair.
Case 2: Strategic Planning
ED: “Our board is so excited about how far our program has developed in our first two years and is eager to bring it to another area of the state! So how do we raise the money to hire an operations manager?” CAT: “Well, as a starting point, did you and the board agree on your next
year’s operating budget?” ED: “Ahhhhhhhh, no not yet.” (followed by several excuses).
FOG ALERT! Without defining the costs of a program, you cannot develop appropriate strategies for raising the funds to support it. A budget to meet the goal[s] must be developed first. REMEDY: The ED must, in consultation with the board, establish a budget for the next year. Understanding that funders hesitate to give for things such as warehouse rent, truck rental, or staff, the ED then needs to convert the operating expenses into specific service delivery items. In this case, it most likely will break out in dollars to support an individual child, an individual sports team, and a school's sports program.
In both of the above cases, the “FOG” was caused because the ED was passionately eager to achieve a goal and was not looking at the immediate steps that needed to be completed before movement forward could be made. To avoid being caught in a FOG, it can be helpful to use a best practices checklist* to assist you in whatever process you undertake. The checklist will aid you in keeping your objectivity as you proceed with the undertaking. It will help prevent the cloudy thinking that can develop into a handicapping FOG. At the very least, the checklist will help you identify a Fog Alert so that you can address the issue before you proceed further.
*See the next blog for a sample checklist out in early June.