Strategic Leadership & Corporate Governance: Creating Nonprofit Organizations that Learn and Adapt

Steven MaranvilleKnown as the Startup Unicorn Trainer, Steven (SJ) Maranville, Ph.D., is Chairman of Maranville Enterprises—the Venture Creation corporation. Scaling-up the Strategic IQ of Entrepreneurs & Their Unicorn-bound Ventures, Dr. Maranville advises boards of directors and senior management on how to gain and sustain competitive advantage by creating ventures that learn.

This interview focuses on the role of the Board of Directors and Executive Director in creating a learning organization that prepares the nonprofit institution for effective adaptation in an ever-changing competitive landscape.

All institutions—whether for-profit or not-for-profit—are in a struggle for competitive survival. In nonprofit institutions, the Board of Directors and Executive Director are ultimately responsible and accountable for the organization’s success or failure. Consequently, they either explicitly or implicitly enact a strategy for adaptation.

Successful adaptation, though, requires more than mission, vision, and strategy statements. Adaptation requires one specific capability that is essential but rare—the institution’s ability to learn. We’re not talking here about how individuals learn but rather how the organization or the collection of individuals who constitute the organization learn.

Organizations that learn faster and more than their competitors have greater survival rates. While all organizations do learn, the rate, extent, reliability, and validity of that learning is quite disparate. Therefore, it is the ultimate job of the Board of Directors and Executive Director to develop and magnify the organizations ability to learn.

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Read the Interview

Hugh Ballou: Hey, friends, it’s The Nonprofit Exchange. It’s Steven and Hugh. Steven, how are you doing on this wonderful day?

Russell Dennis: It’s beautiful out here in Colorado, of course. Life is beautiful. It’s good to see all of our folks out here again for another fabulous edition of The Nonprofit Exchange. We have another brilliant leader to help you up your game with everything you’re doing.

Hugh: We’ve had some amazing people over five years. Steven Maranville is our guest today. Steven, we’re going to get right into letting you share with people. We will talk on this episode about some important things today about leadership and governance for nonprofits. Let’s start out with you telling people a little bit about yourself. What is your background? Why is it that you’re doing what you’re doing? Steven, welcome to The Nonprofit Exchange.

Steven Maranville: Thank you. You’re welcome. It’s great to be on with both Hugh and Russell. My name is Dr. Steven S.J. Moranville. You can call me S.J. if you like. I am chairman of Maranville Enteprises, the venture creation corporation. For over 30 years, Maranville Enterprises has been scaling up the strategic IQ of unicorn found ventures. In a manner of speaking, I boost the vision acuity of entrepreneurs by removing their blind spots and giving them new lenses so they venture with vision.

You might have figured out I am totally blind. That is why you don’t actually see a video of me. You’re seeing a photo. On my computer, I have disabled the camera for security purposes. I guarantee you I look every bit as good as what that photo shows. While I am totally blind, I have an abundance of insight about entrepreneurship. But what I also recognize is that many of the characteristics that affect entrepreneurs are also found in nonprofit ventures, whether they are startup nonprofits or even if they have been around for a while. Fundamentally, one of those characteristics that is quite similar between a for-profit venture and a nonprofit venture is the governance that is managed by their board of directors. That is what I would like to talk about today, Hugh.

Hugh: Awesome. Russell, I don’t know if you’ve ever encountered this with a nonprofit board, but I don’t think they’re not in tune with their responsibilities in terms of governance. What is your experience?

Russell: When you bring somebody onto your board, it is incumbent upon you to explain what the expectations are if you got a new organization and a lot of people don’t know that. It’s a legal responsibility for the operation of the organization. While a lot of boards understand that, there are people that I’ve come across who are not fully in tune with what that entails because it hasn’t been explained to them. You run into those situations when you have a lot of turnover, you have a new board, your board is growing and expanding and you’re bringing on new people. It’s important to pass that type of thing along to new people.

Hugh: It really is. The title of this interview that you suggested, which is spot-on, is “Strategic Leadership and Corporate Governance: Creating Nonprofit Organizations that Learn and Adapt.” Steven, give us a little oversight on what does corporate governance actually mean for those people who are sitting around the table on a nonprofit board.

Steven: In a for-profit venture, in a startup, everything there is of course about making a profit and making sure that the owners of the company are represented in the decisions that are being made. That is why there is a board in a for-profit organization. They have a fiduciary responsibility to care for the owners of the business. In a nonprofit organization, of course there is not a single owner or a small group of owners. A nonprofit is given that status because it has a social good. In essence, the owner of the nonprofit organization is the community at large. The board of directors, while not technically owners of that nonprofit, they are the ones who represent the community at large. They are the ones that provide governance. Governance simply means that you’re leading that organization in its sustainability, in its ability to survive and continue to provide that social good that it’s received its nonprofit status for. As Russell mentioned, I find myself in the work I do with nonprofits that many of the boards don’t really understand what their particular role is. Do you find that as well?

Hugh: Oh yes, every day.

Steven: And that’s one of the greatest challenges that a nonprofit has. The board is the entity that leads to set the strategic direction for the nonprofit. I understand that word “strategic” is a word frequently associated with a for-profit organization. The word “strategy” simply means these are the actions that this organization is going to take to accomplish its purpose. These are the high-level actions under which all of the daily activities take place. It is the board that actually sets what those high-level actions need to be. In other words, what are the goals we really have for this organization? How are we going to in the large picture sense accomplish those goals? Without that kind of direction by the board, decisions are really left up to a day-to-day muddling through. Nothing strategic comes of that.

Hugh: Absolutely. I guess we could say that social benefit organizations are social entrepreneurs.

Steven: Yes.

Hugh: I don’t find a lot of difference in startup businesses and nonprofits because they are people who have really good content, really good ideas, a high level of passion, very little expertise on how to build an enterprise, either for-profit or nonprofit. Is that consistent with what you’ve found?

Steven: Absolutely. You and I are exactly on the same page.

Hugh: I’ve gone from a consultant to an insultant to being a resultant. I am an equal opportunity offender. Russell is a lot nicer than me. We are here to help people think about strategy. To us, it is the integration of strategy and performance. What you are bringing to the conversation today is specifically the role and responsibility of the board of directors. It really falls on their shoulders, doesn’t it?

Steven: It does. I don’t want to diminish at all the role of the executive director because again, if I go back to a for-profit startup, the role of the board, their whole job in the for-profit revolves around two things. One is hiring the CEO, and the other is firing the CEO.

It is the same thing in the nonprofit. The responsibility of the board is to hire the executive director, fire the executive director/CEO. Once you hire that executive director, the board gives the executive director their input as to the strategic direction the nonprofit should go in. But then the executive director puts together his/her team to execute that strategy. An effective board stays out of daily execution, but stays at a higher level of providing mentorship and advice to the executive director, but also making sure that advice is not down in the weeds, but it’s at a higher level of strategic direction.

Hugh: That is such a clear definition, Steven. We see lots of boards that want to control the day-to-day activities, and that is not their job at all.

Steven: No.

Hugh: Let’s go back to this hiring thing. I’ve often said the two most dysfunctional things that happen in a nonprofit is 1) the search committee and 2) the annual evaluation.

Steven: Right.

Hugh: You resonate on that, I gather.

Steven: Yes.

Hugh: The hiring process. To me, it’s finding the right person that fits the culture with the right competencies, but it’s also how we assimilate that person and how we talk clearly about expectations both ways. Do you want to fill in some gaps there? Can you give us some wisdom there?

Steven: You are exactly right on with the kind of thinking I have around hiring as well. When hiring the chief executive of the nonprofit, for me, there are two issues. One is the hard skills, meaning that the technical skills that that particular leader is going to need to have a grasp of. But what’s even more important to me at that level, once you’ve gotten to the level of being an executive officer of that nonprofit, it’s not so much about technical skill as it is about relational skills. The ability to lead rather than manage. While management is a very important skill that gets you to that level, leadership is the ability to help others within the organization to accomplish the goals that ultimately you’re going to be held responsible for.

Hugh: I see Russell nodding his head. We just kick this back and forth in the interview process. So far, I have been the ice cream interview. I have been Haagen Daz [hogging this] interview. Russell, go ahead.

Russell: Leadership, executive director is part of the leadership. You have levels. The board sets the vision for what the nonprofit wants to accomplish, and the overriding values that you operate under. Finding that leader, that person, once you set the standard, you have somebody with the knowledge, skill, and ability to make it happen. Look for the person to make the talent happen. Governance is one of ten key areas they look at here in Colorado for nonprofit excellence or effectiveness. That is having the right officers in place. it speaks to policies and other things that you need. They have actually put out a publication that is quite extensive on all of these different areas.

As you look at different organizations, a lot of them don’t like to think about- With businesses, you talk about boards. These organizations are in competition with others to grab market share, be responsible to shareholders who are the people you’re serving overall in the community. The nonprofit is in a sense doing the same thing. A lot of them don’t like to think about themselves being in competition. What ways do you see that they compete with one another, especially in ways that may not be necessary?

Steven: Russell, when I am advising a nonprofit board, we go through some training. What you just mentioned is exactly the first thing that we start to talk about. Nonprofits, just like for-profits, are competitive. We start to see that we compete for employees. We compete for other kinds of resources from the community, whether it be money or any kind of resource. We compete for even a share of the market of those individuals that we are providing social benefit for. Competition is not a dirty word. It’s how you approach that competition. This is what brings in for me this concept that is in the title of our interview about creating a learning organization. Is that something that’s interesting that you’d like to talk about?

Russell: Yes, learning and adopting. One of the problems that a lot of people have that they put themselves under stress with is this notion of we have to do everything perfectly the first time. If we can’t do it perfectly, let’s not do it at all. It’s a lot of unnecessary pressure, but it’s about learning. If you want to learn, you adapt instead of doing the same things over and over again. One of the most important things that we can do, because situations change. If you can speak to that and adopting and learning, what are some of the things an organization can do to make that a part of their culture?

Steven: That’s the key. It’s making it a part of the organization’s culture. You used a particularly important word, “adapt.” That is the job of every organization, whether it’s a business, whether it’s a nonprofit. The job is to adapt to its environment. There are two ways I have found that organizations adapt. One way is where the organization changes itself to adapt to the environment. We find lots of examples of that in business. In every small business, in particular, it’s put in a position where it needs to adapt to its environment. Consequently, there are a lot of small nonprofits that are in that position.

The second type of adaptation is where the organization possesses particularly potent strategic resources. They also then possess the capability to use those resources so they can change the environment for the desires of the organization. There are fewer examples of that type of adaptation. But the examples we have are big examples that every one of us know about. They are household names in their business. Have you heard of a small business, Apple?

Russell: Oh yeah, that’s one of those garage things, isn’t it?

Steven: They did a pretty good job, around the year 2000, of really taking control of its environment, not changing itself to fit what the environment was doing, but actually changing the environment. I’ll go back two decades before that to one of its major competitors, Microsoft. At the time that it came on the scene in the 1980s, it most definitely didn’t just fit into the environment; it changed the environment. There are examples of nonprofits as well that possess that kind of strategic resource where they change the environment.

In either of those two situations, whether the organization is changing itself or the environment, both of those are examples of adaptation. The key here is any entity that needs to adapt has to possess one particular characteristic. That characteristic is the ability to learn. Once an organization has an ability to learn—in fact, I am just going to say it, every organization has the ability to learn. The real question is how fast and how effectively is that organization going. This is what the board of directors in their governance activities have a very special role to perform in helping the organization have a faster and more effective learning. Does that make sense to you?

Russell: That makes perfect sense. There is a term that comes to mind that Kevin Trudeau called teachability. There are two components. The first is that willingness to learn that we have been talking about and that you talked about so eloquently. The other thing you folded in is that willingness to change. It has to come from two places. People can do that. We laughed about the whole garage thing, but those are two businesses that are massive that actually started in garages. A lot is possible.

Let’s go back a little bit to the strategic resources. Do you find a lot of organizations have a good sense of what their resources are? Or do you have to help them measure that? What are some important things for them to measure when they are looking at their strategic assets?  

Steven: In my experience, there is a distinction here between the startup business and the startup nonprofit. I find that the startup business tends to have a much clearer idea of what their strategic resources are. In fact, they typically have built their business around those strategic resources. For example, many startups today are technology startups. Their strategic resource is the technology that the founders of that company understand and are trying to commercialize. What we find with nonprofits is that often their focus is less on the technology or their strategic resource, and it’s more on the need of the market they are serving. Of course, listen, there is nothing wrong with that at all. There is nothing at all wrong with knowing what the needs of your market are. I find nonprofits tend to put their focus on that and not really think about what the technology is that they’re using to satisfy the needs of that part.

Russell: How about some examples of what you consider to be the strategic resources that nonprofits have? Which ones are typically most commonly overlooked or improperly measured?

Steven: Let’s begin with- There are several kinds of resources that would be good for us to talk about. One of those resources is in fact technology. A particular nonprofit might have a technology that it uses to satisfy the needs, but unlike for-profit organizations, they just may not be thinking of that resource as a technology. I want to describe for you the way that I think about a technology. It doesn’t have to be high-tech. It doesn’t have to be electronic. A technology is simply a knowledge base that that organization is using to create its products and services.

Let’s just talk about for example a nonprofit that may be working with disadvantaged youth. They are trying to give those disadvantaged youth a broader perspective on life. They are trying to give them the ability to see more options than what they may currently see. This nonprofit has a curriculum. In my terminology, this curriculum is their technology. One of the ways in which I see nonprofits not do their best with this kind of technology, a curriculum technology, is that they want to outsource that technology. In other words, they want somebody outside of their organization to create that technology. If they don’t hire someone to write that curriculum, even worse, they go online and find a curriculum that some other nonprofit has put together, and adapt that technology.

In my way of speaking about this, your core adaptive advantage is found in that technology, through that curriculum. This is something that needs to be done entirely in-house. This needs to come from the direction of the board and then the day-to-day working of the creating of that curriculum by members of the nonprofit. That is one example of a resource. I call that a technology resource.

Another resource that we could talk about that I think is even more overlooked surprisingly than the technology resource is the human resource. Many times, we have members of our organization, whether for-profit or nonprofit, that have fantastic skills, but we don’t really draw those skills out. We don’t recognize how those skills contribute to our adaptive advantage.

One of the ways that I find that boards of directors in nonprofits can be particularly helpful in drawing out this kind of strategic resource is mentoring. Those members of the board are on that board because of the great accomplishments they’ve made. Obviously, they made those great accomplishments because they have an understanding of what it takes to succeed and their own innate skills. I have found tremendous success in setting up mentoring programs in nonprofits where the board of directors are working with senior members of the nonprofit’s team.

I’ve given you a few examples of technology resources as well as human resources that had a tremendous impact on adaptive advantage.

Russell: My belief is that the #1 asset that any nonprofit has is its people. I think in terms of the knowledge, skills, and abilities that each of them have, I never thought of the programs nonprofits offer as technology. That is actually packaging that knowledge. Everybody comes with a unique offer as it were. That’s something that nobody else is doing in the way that they do it in particular. A lot of businesses have that. How do you help nonprofit leaders garner lessons from profit-making enterprises on how to showcase these assets?

Steven: This is a great question because it does get to the very core of what it is to create a learning organization. If you are going to have a learning organization, you better have a learning board. One of the things that I will do in coaching boards is we have regularly scheduled times when it’s not just about dealing with the regular issues that are on the board’s agenda, but it’s about dealing with the dynamics of the board itself and helping the board to become a mini learning organization within the learning organization of the entire nonprofit.

My Ph. D is in business administration, and specifically one of my specializations is in strategic management. Strategic management is simply about how the organization finds direction and executes toward that direction. One of the things that I find in board governance is somewhat dysfunctional. We touched on this earlier. I shouldn’t even say somewhat. It’s tremendously dysfunctional. The board contains activities on its agenda that are more operational than strategic. So the board has the executive director in that monthly meeting or quarterly meeting. They treat the executive director like s/he is another member of the board. But this is not the case. The executive director is the person who is actually in charge of executing the strategy. Let’s talk with that director about strategy, not about the things that the director needs to be dealing with, which is operations. I find that that is the first place to begin with holding the board to become a learning entity in itself: understanding their own responsibilities and how to execute them.

Russell: It’s about letting people do what they do. That is why you look for the people with the talent to execute things. I believe when you are looking at strategy, you are making the better use of the board members’ time, and you don’t have these never-ending meetings with agendas. Hugh is a big fan of agendas, aren’t you, Hugh?

Hugh: That is the anti-productivity. Steven, our teaching is the agenda is the enemy of productivity. I am a musical conductor. We don’t use agendas; we use outcome-based rehearsals. When I do board meetings, it’s like a rehearsal with a choir or an orchestra. We focus on learning, accomplishing, completing. It’s deliverable-based. An agenda item for instance would be we are going to talk about marketing. A deliverables-based meeting is we are going to find the top marketing strategies that will increase our revenue. We teach people to let go of old paradigms by letting go of old terminology so they refresh their thinking with some new ideas.

I hear you laughing because you resonate with that. So far, Russell, we’re spot-on with every point he’s making. It’s what I call creating a new architecture of engagement. We rehearse. If I am in a musical rehearsal, and I have a bad rehearsal, I will have a bad or compromised performance. In corporate America, and in nonprofits, and they are neck and neck about who’s worse, the meeting is the highest team-killer factor. We have bad meetings, unproductive, boring meetings. Nobody wants to be there. Yet we expect there to be good results.

Russell knew I was going to spout off about that. I am going to throw it back to Steven. Any comments on my spouting off here?

Steven: I’d most definitely like to. My comments are going to be quite in favor of what you’re describing. I have more that I can add to that. My problem with the agenda is first of all, it tends to be quite operational as opposed to being strategic, meaning that too many of the day-to-day activities of the nonprofit are being discussed during that very special board time.

My other issue with it is by being virtue of an agenda where we have item one, item two, item three, they tend to be artificially organized. You might say to me, “Well, okay, I may not be in favor of agendas, but you certainly have to have some way of organizing the meeting.” My suggestion is that board meetings—they are not operational meetings, they are strategic meetings—should not be guided by an agenda of decisions to be made. Those are up to the executive director. But the activity that goes on in the board meeting needs to be led by strategic questions. Rather than having an artificial delineation of topics, you should have what I describe as a strategic conversation. Really, a conversation. Not just item one, all in favor, hands up. Let’s have an hour to an hour and a half, even a few hours, of a real, meaningful strategic conversation that leads to conclusions that we can then hand off to the executive director who then is responsible for the execution.

Hugh: Add to that if you will. I am writing notes because I am learning from you. I’ve only done this for 32 years, but I am still in the learning curve. My posture is when you stop learning, you might as well be buried.

I’ve worked with nonprofit boards for 32 years. I spent 40 years inside mega churches implementing and learning and making mistakes that help me create the systems I have. As of June of this year, I have been elected president of the board of the Lynchburg Symphony Orchestra. My gift is conducting, but it’s leadership with a baton basically. I view meetings as rehearsals. We rehearse how we want to perform. We either rehearse bad habits or good habits. What you talked about is playing right into that scenario with different words.

Here is my question for you. I am implementing the strategies I teach, but they are hard to implement. I tell people this stuff is hard to do, but we make it harder because we don’t have a system. I am in the middle of taking what the president did as an autocratic leadership when we didn’t have an executive director. Now we have an executive director. We have six very good committee chairpeople.

Talk about the strategic direction of the committees as they interface with the board. I am positioning my board meetings toward the three main goals. One is financial, one is operations—who are we as an organization, as a board, how do we function—and the third one is what do we offer? These are our concert offerings. That’s why we exist. We have concerts. We shape our meeting talking about our strategic direction for our objectives in the organization, and how we all play into those.

Specifically, my question to you, knowing that bit about what I’m doing, is how do committee chairs play into the scenario that you’re talking about with the board governance and strategic conversations?

Steven: It really requires a very strong vision that is being articulated by the chair of the board. There are a variety of different kinds of organizational structures. The structure that the name of the structure that best describes what most boards have with their committees, and what you just described, is called a functional structure. A functional structure means that each of these committees has a different area for which they are responsible. As I know that you’re aware, and I’m sure many of our listeners have experienced through their nonprofits or other organizations, when you have a functional structure, it’s very easy for the members of those different functions to start to create their own organization, their own silo that starts to drift away from the vision or the goal that the overall organization is trying to achieve.

As I say, the most important thing to keep those committees moving in the direction that they need to be moving in is there must be a clear vision of what the organization is trying to accomplish, with specific, measurable goals, so that each one of those committees understands what their role is with respect to that overall vision, and those committees are also being measured in terms of their performance.

Hugh: Absolutely. We are doing action items and reporting the action items. We have committee meetings in between. I am transitioning from the board doing all the work at the board meetings to working between the board meetings, and then the accountability is saying this is what we have accomplished. Here is where we can play together. My experience has been with working externally, and now working internally, there is a collaborative sense when people start sharing where they’re going because other committees say we’re doing this work, so it will help you do that. There is a collaborative sense.

You have referenced learning organizations. The committee chairs and the board of directors, talk a little bit more about creating a learning organization. We tend to think it’s static, we show up, we do the work, we go home. But really it’s an organic organization. We are growing.

Steven: An important part of my response to that question is a segment of what you just said. It’s not about coming to the board meeting to do the work, to make decisions. Those things get done in between the board meetings. The board meeting is there for accountability. The board meeting is there to put the executive director at the head of the board table and for the executive director to give an update on what has strategically been accomplished since the last board meeting. Not emphasizing the day-to-day things that the executive director or anybody else working underneath her might have done during that last period. But talking about the vision that the board has given that director, and what has changed over the last month or three months.

After that update, this is when the strategic conversation takes place. The board members need to become skilled at creating a learning organization by asking strategic questions. Asking questions of the executive director, not just about what’s going on today, but where I see the greatest weaknesses in many nonprofits is they are not really looking sufficiently out at the future. Members of the board need to ask questions not simply about how we are meeting the needs of the population that receives our benefits today, but how is that population changing? Maybe that population, if we do an effective job at accomplishing our mission, won’t exist into the near or mid-range future. How can we then take our resources and position them to solve another problem? I don’t see that happening enough on nonprofit boards. It’s what’s happening with the organization today. That’s how you become a learning organization. You start looking out into the future and thinking, How must we change?

If you think about not organizations ad learning, but think about individuals as learning. When any of us learns, what we are really doing is solving a problem. There is some problem that is causing us to dwell on it. As we then anticipate the future, we start thinking about how do we need to make decisions today, changes today, that will allow us to adapt and fit into that future? That is how individuals learn, and in fact, really that’s how organizations learn as well.

Hugh: I think part of what I’m hearing is recognizing and highlighting what should be happening and is happening. Sometimes this is happening, but we don’t call attention to it so people embrace it.

Steven: That’s a great point, Hugh. It sounds to me like you’ve actually had first-hand experience. You’re thinking about something in particular as you say that.

Hugh: Absolutely. The seat I’m sitting in now, having to do this, I’m gratified that some of the things I teach are actually working, and other things will be catching on. I’m changing the course of a battleship.

There is a number of sound bites. We want to leave some time at the end, but I want to give my colleague Russell the last question. Then we will come back to you for some parting thoughts, wisdom, or a tip that you want to leave with people. I will talk about our sponsor and our event, and Russell will close. This has been a helpful interview. Russell, what do you have brewing that you’d like to ask our guest?

Russell: These hours go by so quickly. There are always so many questions that come up, and these conversations could last forever. The one thing I would like to ask you before we end is what boards can do to influence the creation of that culture for an organization to become an adaptable learning organization. What are the most important things a board can do?

Steven: The first thing I had tremendous success with nonprofit boards is for them to have a change of mindset. Of course, becoming a learning organization suggests that we need to make changes to the culture and structures and systems within that organization. All of that begins with the changing of the mindset. Often, the boards of nonprofits, they almost view themselves as employees themselves, part-time employees. They show up for a board meeting on a periodic basis. They go through the agenda. They make some decisions by raising their hands. They go on and wait until the next board meeting. It’s not because board members don’t have a passion for this organization. Of course, the board members have a passion. No one is willing to put that amount of time into an organization they don’t have passion about.

The key here is to get their minds changed from being a helpful employee to being the owners of this nonprofit. They are the ones who are ultimately held accountable for the social good that comes from this organization. Many times, that responsibility is completely laid onto the executive director, and the boards see themselves as a helpful annoyance, like they have these meetings where they get to needle the executive director if s/he is not doing things they are supposed to be doing, or they applaud them if they are doing what they are supposed to be doing. But it’s not like the executive director is getting strategic direction from that board. The board needs to have a mindset of a strategist. That is where I see everything begin.

Hugh: I love that. I’ve taken so many notes.

*Sponsor message from Wordsprint* *Message about 8/22/19 West Palm Symposium*

Steven, back to you. You get the last piece of content here. What do you want to leave people with today?

Steven: First, thank you, Hugh and Russell, for allowing me to be on your program. It’s always a pleasure to talk with hosts like yourselves who have an understanding of organizations, and also to be speaking to your great audience. I know they are sorting everything you have. I do hope they found some value in this program to move their board along as well as to move the entire organization along as a learning organization. That is my fundamental message.

The way to enhance any organization, whether it is a business or a nonprofit, is to create a learning organization. I first started thinking about this a couple decades ago while I was working on my Ph. D. I mentioned I have a Ph. D in business; I have various specializations in entrepreneurship, business strategy, and organizational transformation. I do most of my work with startup ventures. But when I was a Ph. D student and working on my dissertation, I actually chose to work with or do my study of a nonprofit organization. I did my study of the YWCA. I wrote a qualitative study on how strategy is created in organizations that are what are called in the field “environmentally determined.” They have little choice in the kinds of strategic decisions they make. Therefore, how do they go about making strategic decisions? That was the point of my dissertation.

In the process of working on that dissertation, I learned a lot about nonprofits. While I do work a great deal with startup ventures, I also have the good pleasure and privilege of working with nonprofits on occasion. Specifically when I work with them, I work with the board of directors and help them to understand what it means to have a learning organization, and their role in creating the nonprofit as a learning organization.

If I may, I would like to make the offer that if anybody in a nonprofit sees value in creating a learning organization, and you would like to have a conversation with your board about how that could be done, I’d be more than delighted for you to reach out to me. You can do that by my email, I am also going to give you my phone number. If you want to text me, we can set up a meeting. 801-635-7950. If you would just like to learn more about me before contacting me, you can go to

Russell: Great, Steven. Thank you so much for coming to join us. You are a wealth of information. Please reach out to him and learn more.

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