Six Sigma and more:
Strategic planning, helping non-profits
bring mutual benefits
An article entitled "Developing China's Nonprofit
Sector" caught my attention in a recent issue of The McKinsey Quarterly
The authors, Chen, Pan, and Wu, discussed the evolution of China's
nonprofit sector and how it might be an opportunity for international
corporations. The article outlined many ways that international
corporations might help that sector in order to gain knowledge of
and contacts with China, while legitimately helping the people of
Donating money to nonprofits in a market you want to penetrate may seem like a no- brainer. We even do something similar at Lansing Community College (LCC), where I work. We figure out ways to give students scholarships. Those scholarships help them access education that they might not otherwise be able to afford. But it also provides LCC with students that LCC might not otherwise have. This kind of giving seems to me to be marketing driven. I think that is fine, especially if we can do good work along the way.
The article, however, reminded me of a more serendipitous event
that was part of Trees of a Feather, my wife, Carole's, fiber arts
shop. Don't you think that is a cool name? It actually looks like
a little yarn shop in the village of Brooklyn, Michigan but, it
is really a tiny global community center in disguise. You see, Carole
and her customers get together every Wednesday evening to knit and
solve their knitting, arts, family, neighborhood, and, yes, world
problems. Carole has provided some professional help to CARE (www.CARE.org),
the international aid nonprofit, in the past and became excited
about their new initiative, "I am Powerful." As the Wednesday night
gang conversed, they came upon the idea of a fiber arts retreat
for the purpose of raising money for the new CARE initiative.
Before I continue, I should explain that shortly after Carole became a yarn shop owner, she learned that the yarn shop business is an especially competitive one. No one seems to know why but most owners jealously guard their trade secrets. Despite that culture, Carole has been able to develop a fairly wide community of fiber arts partners. So Carole's new partners helped retreat attendees learn to dye yarn from weeds, weave baskets, bead, make jewelry, and paint on fabric. Other attendees were engaging in meditation, canoeing, singing, practicing yoga, and receiving massages. As a result of all that, Carole and the gang put together a little retreat that drew people from all over Michigan and raised a nice little donation for CARE via a silent auction. Here's where the serendipity comes in. Because of the retreat, Carole became partners with an even wider community of partners. She found new suppliers of products for her shop. She found new outlets for her products. She even got a whole new level of free publicity. And all she wanted to do was to gather women and raise a little money for CARE.
Now here's where Six Sigma comes in. Some of the people in your organization care about something more than reducing variation. They may even care about more than reducing cost and increasing profit. They may even care about more than providing the goods and services your organization provides. Some of them may even have passion around those other things. They may even want to help CARE. They may be concerned about our generally dismal K-12 education system or our equally dismal health care system. They may care about the environment or the homeless or those who are being domestically abused. Turn them loose. A few organizations are trying it out to good effect. Check out Timberland's Path of Service Programô, for example. I also remember when Ford Motor started getting serious about sustainability several years ago; everyone wanted a transfer to help out.
If you haven't already done it, think about how your organization and the people of your company can help the world besides providing your current products, services, jobs, and profit. Engage the folks in your organization in designing a system that turns them loose to STRATEGICALLY help the world become a better place. You may decide to constrain the effort to areas that seem especially beneficial to your organization, but I encourage you to keep the constraints as open as possible to take advantage of the serendipity that Trees of a Feather and Timberland have found.
As always, I’d love to know what you think
and what you are already doing in this area. I'm at email@example.com
2006 PQ Systems.
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