The Value of a Regular Organizational Check-Up

| by Shannon Williams

Regular check-ups are part of life. Whether it’s your teeth, your eyes, your car inspection, or your HVAC unit, we are conditioned to schedule annual exams and execute regular maintenance.

So why is the thought of an organizational assessment so terrifying? For many leaders of for-profit and nonprofit organizations, an assessment feels instinctively punitive. It evokes the question, “What am I doing wrong?”

In truth, an organizational assessment is just a regular check-up. It is not designed to place blame. It is focused on helping an organization understand and celebrate its strengths, acknowledge and accept its weaknesses, consider its opportunities, and recognize its threats. Ultimately, it is designed to help an organization more effectively deliver its mission and positively impact its community of clients and stakeholders.

At Armstrong McGuire, every partnership with a nonprofit starts with some level of assessment. We cannot help you move forward if we don’t understand your present condition and future goals. The same is true for your staff and Board. Without regular assessments, you cannot fully understand where you need more or less people, technology, funding, programs, etc.

Our organizational assessments focus on the key elements that define organizational capacity, effectiveness, and sustainability:

  • Mission, Vision, and Strategy: Does the organization have a clear mission and are strategies in alignment with the mission and desired impact on those it serves?
  • Leadership: Does the organization have strong leaders (board and/or staff) guiding the programs, finances, operations, and stakeholder engagement efforts?
  • Resource Development: Is the organization financially sustainable?  Are operating revenues growing and is the base of funders and donors growing?
  • Strategic Relationships: Does the organization have strong and positive relationships with internal and external stakeholders? Is there a culture of gratitude and engagement?
  • Program Delivery and Impact: Is the organization effective in the delivery of programs and services and is evaluation of impact integral to the organization
  • Operations, Management, and Culture: Does the organization have a strong and sound core infrastructure? Are there core values that help guide interactions with internal and external audiences? 

The answers to these questions help leaders know areas that are highly successful and areas that need to be adjusted. It’s a bit like learning where your toothbrush is effective and where you really need to floss. The highest performing organizations do not shy away from assessment; they seek it. Leaders don’t view it as punitive, they see it as constructive. And, they don’t look for places to point blame. They see the assessment as an opportunity to celebrate the good and address the challenges—as a unified organization that is committed to delivering its mission in the most effective way possible.

So, the next time a leader suggests an organizational assessment, give her a high-five. Be all in. After all, it’s just a regular check-up, and we all need them to stay in good health and operating order.

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