Recently a local paper ran an article about proposed changes to spring break at an area community college. After years of declining funding for higher education, the college struggled to find ways to incent and maintain staff considering continued budget cuts. A newly formed shared governance council proposed closing the college entirely during spring break. Historically, only faculty are off during spring break while staff keep the college operational. Interestingly, the college president noted most students and community members assume the entire college is closed during spring break, so it is a very slow time on campus. Closing provides college staff more time off at no additional cost and minimal impact to students. In fact, closing the campus saves money that would otherwise be spent on utilities. It appears this policy change makes sense and will likely be approved by the college’s board.
It begs the question, what took them so long?
Organizations, like people, often fall victim to “we’ve always done it this way” or “the old way is the only way” mentality. Mission Matters Group is no different. Ensuring continual improvement and getting better each day requires intentionality and discipline. Aiming to proactively address mental road blocks like this, MMG recently launched the largest initiative in its history, Operation Unrationed (O.UR). Despite an internal focus, make no mistake, O.UR has as its primary goal to change the world. Improving each day, will better allow MMG to continually help its clients be more impactful in achieving their missions. The MMG team is passionate about serving our clients. They are also passionate about helping organizations and communities be the best that they can be. With that, the initiative’s name is based on a phrase often uttered at the end meetings by one of the MMG’s founders, Joshua Aranda, “Don’t ration that passion.” And so, the initiative aims to do just that!
O.UR offers a way for the MMG team to focus their work, eliminate the status quo, and adopt an out of the box mindset. As a social enterprise doing nonprofit consulting, MMG is fortunate to have both an abundance of client work and ideas to grow and move the organization forward. What they found was they did not have is an abundance of dedicated time to review, implement, and adopt internal ideas for greater continual improvement. Sound familiar?
It’s a long running joke in the consulting industry, but the adage about the cobbler’s children having no shoes rings true for many. With origins in technology implementations, one of MMG’s most impactful services, Measure Your Mission, helps nonprofit organizations measure and advance their mission. Hence, MMG’s name. What MMG hasn’t been intentional about is applying their own expertise and lessons learned internally. MMG was too busy working in the business (for the immediate benefit of clients) instead of working on the business (for the longer-term benefit of clients.) That will change. Aranda shared, “Our team is passionate about the work we do. We have a lot of ideas about how to ensure a long-lasting sustainable company. It’s just that we’ve dedicated nearly all our hours to client work. We want to ensure our continued ability to help even more nonprofits maximize their impact. So, we must put the same focus and attention on improving ourselves.”
So, just how does a consulting company carve out time to focus internally? By thinking outside of the box. “We have to rethink how we’ve always done things and how the consulting industry has always done things,” Aranda said. “The first step in the initiative is establishing MMG’s Center of Excellence.
Mission Matters Group Center of Excellence
Fortunate to have the talent in-house, MMG will staff the new Center of Excellence internally. Fueled by the vision and passion of the leadership team, Aranda will partner with Gretchen Pettet to begin MMG’s intentional introspection. “It’s a really natural transition because Gretchen will apply the same project management skills she’s used on client projects to our internal projects,” Aranda shared. MMG will leverage the implementation processes the rest of the team uses with client projects. They will apply them internally using the same agile methodology and systems, including timed sprints (2-3 weeks). The organization will use Jira to create and prioritize a backlog of work. The rest of the organization will act as subject matter experts, brought in only as needed. Consequently, this will free more of their time for client focused work.
“By dedicating staff and reducing client facing work for the Center of Excellence team, we ensure the internal work gets done,” Aranda shared. Most importantly, a dedicated team minimizes distraction from our client work. “Through the years we’ve put a lot of work into documenting and communicating our vision, mission, values and goals. In spite of that effort, we struggled to find hours to dedicate to making incremental and substantial progress toward those goals. This is essentially putting our money where our mouth is. It’s the organization saying this work matters. Achieving our mission matters, too.”
Back to the beginning
In addition to clearly defined mission and objectives, MMG regularly references its founding goals internally.
- Do meaningful work and have a positive impact
- Create an environment for people to fulfill a passion
- Create a long-lasting sustainable company
The launch of the Center of Excellence is an important step in expediting progress toward these founding goals. It ensures MMG meets its annual objectives while not compromising the work it does for clients. “Client work is always our priority, but we must increase our focus on continuous improvement. We want to guarantee MMG is here for the long-term to serve our clients. It’s like securing your own oxygen mask on an airplane before helping others,” Aranda continued. “It ensures our ability to do more.”
Getting O.UR off the ground requires a lot of work. In fact, there are still more questions than answers. Sprint Zero, the first sprint of the agile Operation Unrationed initiative, will answer some of those questions. It includes defining a new organizational structure and soliciting and prioritizing the backlog of work. The first sprint will also establish processes for more regular communication to internal stakeholders and clients. “Our clients tell us the work we do for them has substantial impact. We are excited to put more focus on applying the same models and expertise internally,” Aranda concluded.
Don’t ration that passion!
To learn more about Mission Matters Group, their new Center of Excellence, or their consulting services please visit missionmattersgroup.com.