Productivity Case Study

A nonprofit with sluggish performance pinpoints the specific areas of friction that are slowing them down, and within a year they unleash a new level of speed and effectiveness.

PROBLEM

A nonprofit was failing to hit its targets and grow at a rate that the CEO knew they could achieve if they could find a way to work together more effectively. The governing board had high expectations for the organization, but they had reached the classic “what got you here won’t get you there” moment. What had worked for them in the past, wasn’t working now.

SOLUTION

We ran the WorkXO Culture Assessment with them and then helped staff design more than 30 individual action items that would create a new path to better performance. Addressing issues like collaboration and transparency, they ended up removing the friction that had been holding them back, and unleashed productivity and effectiveness that the CEO had not seen before in his staff.

Within their WorkXO culture assessment data, they had some interesting patterns. Collaboration scored more futurist, but Agility and Transparency were notably more traditional. In everyday life, this translated to a group that was experiencing a lot of friction as they moved through the work day. They struggled with confronting conflict (one of the Building Blocks we measure in Transparency), and while they were a small organization where people were certainly willing to help each other, they had very sharp boundaries between functional areas and struggled with cross-functional communication. The CEO who brought us in knew that they could be accomplishing much more than they were at the time.

We worked with them to narrow down some priorities for their culture work, and conflict and collaboration were 2 of the 7 that they identified (others included innovation, strategy, and roles and responsibilities). Based on those priorities, we then helped them identify 35 individual action items designed to move the culture in the direction of the priorities. They picked 10 of those items as the highest priority and started implementing them right away. These included developing guidelines for conflict conversations, implementing a system for identifying decision-making roles within projects, and developing some new KPIs for the organization to help with transparency.

Within a year they saw noticeable productivity gains. “We just completed 3 major projects in the last cycle, all under budget, and all ahead of schedule,” said their CEO, who felt that kind of performance would have been impossible in the previous culture. The friction in the old culture wasn’t always noticeable, but it was clearly slowing them down. Once they addressed the specific culture patterns that were getting in the way, they experienced a significant change for the better. The CEO also noticed that the entire staff dealt much more easily and quickly with a major breakdown in their member database, including providing some tough answers to their governing board. In the past that challenge would have produced a lot of stress, delayed reactions, and avoidance of tough issues, but this time they moved through it quickly and easily, freeing them up to get moving on other issues.

They are not stopping there, of course. They continue to implement the action items from their list, adapting them or even replacing them as needed. The CEO has also noticed a new level of ownership and empowerment from the staff based on the culture work, which has involved everyone on staff, working together.

They continue to implement the action items from their list, adapting them or even replacing them as needed. The CEO has also noticed a new level of ownership and empowerment from the staff based on the culture work, which has involved everyone on staff, working together.