Experienced-Based Wisdom Takes You Further: Deep Smarts

This book choice post first appeared on the Major Projects Knowledge Hub on September 18, 2019.  Liz will be posting book choices to the Facebook Group Major Projects Knowledge Hub throughout the month of September 2019.

Greetings, all! Jonathan Norman invited me to share some book choices with you this month. In hopes that they will spark some new ideas for your work, here’s this week’s share:

Leonard, D., and Walter Swap. Deep Smarts: How to Cultivate and Transfer Business Wisdom. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2005. https://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/item.aspx?num=19601

 

In my last two book choices, I outlined the ways that protecting or losing experienced based expertise know-how directly impacts distinctive competitive advantages.  I also used the term “deep smarts” frequently.  This book choice gets right into the heart of what that term means.

“Deep smarts are the engine of your organization.”

For my own work, I depend on Leonard and Swap’s book because of their own experiences, wisdom and know-how in this field.  Their own research and practical approach experiences are primary sources in the knowledge transfer and continuity management field.

Leonard and Swap explicitly highlight components and knowledge flow activities to successfully transfer experienced-based business expertise.  They demonstrate

  • The fundamental need to understand where expertise lives;
  • essentials of how to build expertise exchange cultures;
  • approaches to create knowledge transfer and continuity to engage and ensure that implied and tacit know-how become explicitly understood and brokered.

Give it a skim or a deep dive and then let me know what you think here or on twitter. @knowsaicNo photo description available.

Realized Values for Nonprofit Boards: Why We Fix This First

Record keeping and information flow don’t sound like the reasons you joined the board.  You joined to make the big picture stuff happen.  But, without the basic framework for board governance records in place, you definitely lose time looking for stuff.  Time that would be better spent on the stuff you really want to do in the first place.

Values for Board Members

Board members are “the fiduciaries who steer the organization towards a sustainable future by adopting sound, ethical, and legal governance and financial management policies, as well as by making sure the nonprofit has adequate resources to advance its mission.” Keeping accurate board records and decisions documentation are of primary importance to protect the board when compliance matters or other potential liabilities are involved.

Values for You

Maybe your personal role serving this nonprofit or social enterprise board may not involve shepherding and maintaining board records and information assets.  But if no one takes this role on, the absence of records or the presence of blocks to quick access will cost you time, decrease your efficiency.  You’ll be able to demonstrate your own effectiveness in less time if you can get to what you need to know to do your work faster.

Values for Your Donors

Efficiency is at the core of operations of nonprofit or social enterprise organizations.  Stakeholders and donors expect grantees to organize themselves well and to do their work as effectively as possible. Most nonprofit board directors consider efficiency to be a key factor of meetings and will hold themselves to the same expectations. Streamline the way your board spurs measurable capabilities and impact when you remove these pain points for operations.

Values for Board Candidates

If you are on the fence about joining in or saying no thanks to a board opportunity, due diligence on your part is a good idea.  Is this body scrambling around, unsure of operations processes like this?  Do new members have the chance to on-board with direct access to expertise and the history of how decisions were made?  Are current members available to engage with you to share and discuss tacit or explicit knowledge continuity to inform next steps person-to-person? Are board records and  committee decisions in order in the event of an audit? If the answers to these questions come up no, it may not be the right fit for you.

Hidden Values

Successful implementations of records management and information flow to boards and stakeholders ideally turn out to seamless and unnoticed. That’s by design.  We tend not to stress over things that are working well.  And we shouldn’t have to stress about these basics that give us so much value for our core endeavors.

Convening the special combination of vision, responsibility, engagement and action is fundamental to nonprofit or social enterprise governance and impact successes.   Knowsaic provides practices, standards and processes to free your board members to enable real engagement.  Now you can re-focus board energies and expertise on cohesive actions aligned to mission strategies.

Talk to Knowsaic today to realize greater values for operations, information flow and collaboration spaces that work for you.

Smoother Sailing for Your Nonprofit Board

When you think about the best nonprofit board you’ve ever been a part of, can you pinpoint why it was so great?

In contrast, it’s memorable, heck – often painful, to recall orgs that totally missed the mark.  You joined because you valued the project, the action or the cause and you were ready to put energy into your role to move that needle, raise money and advocate together for action.  Somewhere between the hand raise and the first project, things are not quite as they seem. “Between the ideal and the reality… there falls the shadow“.

The ability to do what you came to do can break down simply because no one knows who has the right information or context that you need to know to make things go.  Or, if they do know, they aren’t thinking about what you need to know.  This confusion can emerge from something as simple as the most up to date meeting minutes, the right version of the draft updates for the bylaws, or passwords and accounts for the social media outlets.

What do boards need to pass along to new members to ensure they get what they need for positive impact on the mission?

Set new or transitioning member roles up for success begins with a tremendously obvious, not particularly thrilling but frequently overlooked practice.  Keep, distill and share well maintained governance assets that illustrate strategies, actions, discussions and context about how the board got from there to here. Ensure that everyone knows where these assets live, and who they can talk with about them.

Board governance assets form the basis for successful board engagement, but that’s just the beginning.

Intentional and strategic management of the information and knowledge assets of your board enables smoother sailing to socializing board engagement.

“Bringing on a terrific board member is only the first step. Taking time to ensure that each board member becomes personally invested and engaged in the mission of the organization is time well spent. When truly engaged, board members will become your nonprofit’s best ambassadors, advocates, strategists, and all around supporters.”  National Council of Nonprofits

Create meaningful and conversational exchange opportunities for collective impact.

Engaged boards “work” between board meetings, and attend meetings well prepared. They are willing to deliberate candidly, confidently treading on sensitive topics that may result in “messy” discussions because they trust one another and are comfortable with the culture of the nonprofit, confident that everyone values mutual respect.

Loss of expertise of a departing member can bring the new member’s ability to hit the ground running to a standstill.  Loss of momentum, opportunity or even loss of the new recruit can be unhappy results.

In contrast, compelling and appreciative discussions between current members and new recruits have far greater impact than a road map of reading reports alone.  Ensure that expertise and org memory doesn’t leave with the retiring executive director, and engage in knowledge transfer of know-how and know-who for exits and on boarding for board projects and roles.

For your organization’s board and it’s collective impact, establish both good governance record keeping practices and meaningful conversations for knowledge retention and transfer.  Knowsaic tames the chaos and is ready with the life ring, so let’s talk more.  Smoother sailing is ahead for your nonprofit board.