Sustaining Capacity

Bruce Weber and Charlie Smith

Building capacity is more than a financial model. It is the artful balance of people, process, intent and strategy working together to ensure sustainability. Great communication and visual management strategies can help unlock an organization’s potential. When done correctly, social-sector and for-profit organizations can leverage concise and clear messaging to empower high-performance teams and fully engaged boards to build transformative organizations. If capacity is the engine that drives performance and makes it possible for an organization to meet its goals and execute its mission, then communication is the fuel that powers the engine.

Organizations are driven by their mission, vision and core values. The ability to communicate these to internal and external stakeholders is vitally important. As Murray Newlands in his article on effective communication says, “Effective internal communication is important to any company, but skillful communication can mean the difference between your business failing or succeeding.” He cites the Holmes Report data that surveyed 400 corporations over a year that concluded “companies with highly effective communication strategies had a 47-percent higher return to shareholders, more engaged employees and less staff turnover.” Great leaders understand this and make the ability to share their vision through words and effective visuals a core competency. Leaders armed with simple, yet meaningful, vision statements are able to cascade their vision. Others within the    organization follow.

Organizations with great communication strategies also develop connected networks of peers to constantly bring in external viewpoints, creating a culture that promotes honest and open dialogue. These organizations have a strong sense of self because they are not afraid to face brutal realities when disruption or competitive challenges occur. They move toward ambiguity with curiosity and sense of wonder.

A social-sector organization in Phoenix recently made “how they think about themselves” and “how they talk about themselves” a strategic priority. Its newly appointed CEO pushed the organization and its leadership team to challenge the status quo and begin changing their internal dialogue and external communications strategy culture. The CEO viewed their communication strategy as a critical component of capacity building, which was then built into their new  strategic plan.

The Weber Group’s model for Organizational Capacity Building consists of five focus areas: Intent + Culture + Communication + Process + Innovation.

Communication is at the center of the model. “Visual management – VM,” the use of clear concise graphical images and text, is a key component of effective communication. VM assists in the understanding of and building consensus toward complex issues by using images, symbols and color to make things understandable. Communication across all stakeholders is essential. Imagination and storytelling with a keen ability to describe an organization’s intentional future is what creates the sparks to fuse culture and process together. T. Michael Glen, vice president of FedEx Services, says it best: “Communication is the center of everything. You can’t execute strategy if you can’t communicate about it.”

When communicating strategically, it is always important to think about the future rather than the here and now. As Jeannette Warren wrote in “Strategic Communication is More Important than Ever” (CATMEDIA, Sept. 17, 2015), “Strategic communication is most effective when there is a long-term implementation plan in place. The most enduring companies are those that focus on the long-term, have a strong set of values and are proactive rather than reactive in communicating.”

Finally, sustaining capacity involves creating a team of dedicated people to drive the organization forward. Building a high-performance team focuses on building a culture that permits everyone at all levels to create and innovate, allowing the organization to achieve greater gains in mission impact. Maintaining an organization-wide strategy keeps everyone on the team focused on a clear path to success. Those who remain intentional about keeping their organization strong will continue on the path to progress. These fundamentals, along with a solid internal communication mechanism, allow the organization to reach new heights!

This is the final article of a six-part series on developing and sustaining organizational capacity.

Bruce Weber is founder and president/CEO at Weber Group. Weber brings more than 20 years of experience to the for-profit and nonprofit community, working with startup, growth and mature organizations. His focus is in strengthening organizations through strategic planning, organizational development, leadership and board development. He is a BoardSource Certified Governance trainer and a founding partner of the Nonprofit Lifecycles Institute.

Charlie Smith is managing partner at the Weber Group. Smith brings decades of experience in the financial services industry, including an extensive background working within organizations to develop high-performance teams. His focus is working with nonprofit CEOs, executive directors and board chairs to build smarter high-performance organizations focused on strategy and execution. He is a BoardSource Certified Consultant, a certified 6 Sigma Black Belt and a Master Black Belt in planning.

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