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In the purpose-driven space, sustainability is a catch-all phrase for planetary, social, environmental, and economic well-being in communities, nations, and in the world. But how many in this space are actually financially and organizationally sustainable?
Doing good, being good is a good mission. But being good but not being smart is deadly and bordering on hypocrisy. To become a truly sustainable force in the world, your organization must walk the talk and talk the walk.
One organization is a one-funder business model. Another one has one staff and hundreds of volunteers trying to get to another impact goal. Another organization is penny-pinching on much-needed reorganization costs just because the Board didn't think they need it. Another one is simply mired with employee issues that do not reflect well on their values statements.
In this circuit, the holier-than-thou attitude is almost always invoked. Yet, this complacent, self-congratulation is partly the reason for why the same sector proclaiming sustainability isn't sustainable either.
Best practices are out there. When corporates and profit-seeking ventures are hit hard on sustainability, the sector must face the same music and should be held accountable for it.
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BEFORE YOU WORK HARDER
In an imperfect world with stifling budget and ever-expanding mandate, you might be tempted to roll your sleeve more and work harder. Before you do that, check all the value and motivation-destroying activities you engage, see instituted, or passed off as necessary.
1. Bureaucracy. Too much paper-shifting, oversight, approvals. I saw this in my former life as a municipal staff and very draining.
2. Failure work. Countless rewriting and re-editing, and asking for countless validation. Let's define what's needed and stop repeating the process.
3. Overreach. It's good to say you're inclusive and highly participatory, but overdoing it, doesn't add to another inch of impact.
4. Not communicating well. Setting clear expectations and being mindful of interpretations from different stakeholders matter. It's a preventative measure you can start with.
Ask these questions now in your organization. Reframe the assumptions and received thinking around them. Provoke new ways of doing things. It's your work, it's your life.
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THE POST-TRUTH DEMOCRACY
I have been following the unfolding Philippine electoral events, with the former President's son, Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos unassailable victory as President and his running mate, Sarah Duterte, the incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte's daughter, as Vice-President.
Sad to say, after the Marcos's ouster by the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution, the majority of Filipinos elected the Marcoses back is a case of collective amnesia. With the post-truth machinery in full throttle, the democracy of the country is now in the brink of massive collapse on many fronts.
For someone who was born, raised, and educated in the Philippines and now based in Canada, I simply can't understand this phenomenon when in fact that there are many qualified, honest, competent people who can become president. We have great people who can lead. But winning is another thing.
In a island country where the elites rule and politicos rule until they drop dead, the Marcos campaign was well-oiled, in the digital and ground-level landscapes. Instead of the guns, goons, and gold, now it was the trolls, the disinformation, and the total censorship. The |"no talk, no mistake" policy proved beneficial in the long run.
As with millions of observers, we have yet to see a no-platform-of-government incoming President wing it and make social progress, economic development happen for 90+ million Filipinos and the diaspora workers scattered all over the world.
This is a grand example of post-truth democracy- all the trappings of a democratic exercise rigged by the unmediated, brazen, corrupt use of digital politics to the fullest measure allowed by societal standards and norms of political engagement. The winner obviously takes it all.
It's the best and worst of our digital age.
We are watching.
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DON'T INCLUDE THE KITCHEN SINK
It's that time of the year.
I was on the phone a few months ago, with the Executive Director who was looking for a Strategic Planning service. As usual, the conversation went as far as detailing the needs, specifications, and the rationale for reaching out for an external resource.
Let's break the four misconceptions about strategies and strategic formulation, in general.
1. Get the text out soon. The product is important but there's more to the written text
The process dynamics will be so rich that you should capture the momentum to bring your organization to another level of development or competency. Strategy exercises expend a lot of energy and resources, do it all with care and devotion, it will have positive compounding effects.
2. We begin from zero every time. The process is not linear and you don't have to start all over again
The brick-and-mortar style can be shortened, there is no hard and fast rule on stages and how organizations should approach the strategy development. Use your prior strategic decisions to move you forward on a long-term path unless there's a big reason to make a radical right turn.
3. We don't have to implement them. Yes you do.
It doesn't mean that you have to implement them all at once and with equal amounts of strategies and tactics. Implementation is an art and a science. There are bridging processes to ensure that the old strategy gives way to the new one without cutting off continuing impacts. It's like buying an expensive exercise machine and not using it or winning the lottery and returning the money back. Get the point?
4. We want to include a specific commitment to (another motherhood value statement). You can't include the kitchen sink, sorry.
Remember, its your strategic direction- how you are going to act in the face of internal and external challenges, constraints, and opportunities to achieve your goals. Unless, it's strategic, leave it to the values section.
Read this before you call someone for external support or talk to your Board or staff so you can get on with the program. Call me when you're ready to proceed.
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HAVING TOO MUCH FUN?
I heard this comment a few years ago, from a supervisor commenting on an employee having "too much fun" outside work, vacations in Mexico and booking up more in the next few months. The supervisor saw a rejuvenated, well-tanned staff beaming with optimism and joie de vivre. What's wrong with that picture?
What this means I conjure is that too much fun outside work means there is misery in the workplace for the supervisor, the staff, and probably within the department. God knows who else is not having fun there.
On the other hand, this statement should be read backwards. Nobody now wants drudgery in work. If you are miserable in your job and continue to stay on for the paycheck, your wasting your life, which has a limit. Statistically speaking, Canadians live up to only a certain age and then life goes downhill. And if you're a slaving as a supervisor, that's not supervision and not management, either.
For those who are refugees from working in organizations like me, I do not miss this arrangement. I'd rather be doing something that feeds my soul, puts money in my wallet, and lets me sleep good at night.
The future of work is all about fun, flexibility, and autonomy in the workplace. There is a high degree of challenge and complexity but also independence and the ability to use one's judgement in the interests of the organization. The reason people quit their job is because of their boss not because of the job itself.
The staff resigned after a few months. No surprise there.
If you're having too much fun at work, that is a good sign. How much is too much is up to you!