Saturday, January 20, 2007

Not serving but serving better

When I set my 2007 goals for work as CEO/Teacher's Assistant I had a nagging feeling that something was amiss. I like setting goals because they give me a sense of accomplishment but something in me was resisting goal-setting even as I did so.

Then I read a Fast Company article about a typical Toyota plant in Kentucky, where "What is so striking about Toyota's Georgetown factory is, in fact, that it only looks like a car factory. It's really a big brain--a kind of laboratory focused on a single mission: not how to make cars, but how to make cars better."

Later in the article another quote caught my eye: "What happens every day at Georgetown, and throughout Toyota, is teachable and learnable. But it's not a set of goals, because goals mean there's a finish line, and there is no finish line. It's not something you can implement, because it's not a checklist of improvements. It's a way of looking at the world."

Something clicked. At Evergreen Leaders we teach the smart and friendly systems path is one of the 7 paths organizations use to thrive. But there is no such thing as a perfectly smart and friendly system.

Currently I am producing Evergreen Leaders' first annual report, a system that corporations have used for years to report to stakeholders on the previous year and plans for the next year. Looking at it through the Toyota lens, next year I'll have the opportunity to produce a better annual report.

In fact, after I produce the first annual report I can use 2007 to improve the way that I gather the information to use in the 2007 annaul report.

The annual report and the smart and friedly systems used to create it can be improved ever year.

So your nonprofit is not in the business of serving elders or people with disabilities or the homeless but your organization exists to serve them better.

I suspect that simple change--not serving but serving better--could have a profound impact on your organization from this day forward.