How Resources Fly Out the Window in Mission-Based Organizations!

by Ginny Trierweiler, Ph.D., the Mission -Based Leadership Coach


Mission-based organizations (including nonprofit, not-for-profit, and others) fulfill some of the most important and fundamental needs in our communities.  As important as the missions of these organizations are, their leaders confront great challenges these days when it comes to maximizing their organization’s impact.  Too often, many of their resources are simply flying out the window!

At least that’s how I see it.  As someone who has directed and consulted to such organizations for the past 15 years, I have seen scant resources of important organizations being wasted.  And it’s not because their leaders are wasteful or incompetent.  Highly intelligent, talented, hard-working mission-based leaders often battle systemic challenges in their efforts to ensure that scant resources are maximized so that the mission can be most fully realized.

What causes this resource-escape problem and what can leaders do to ensure the greatest impact?

Common Causes of Resources Flying out the Window

  1. Bureaucratic requirements often divert energy from the mission. Many nonprofit organizations receive a substantial portion of their funding from tax dollars which come with myriad bureaucratic requirements. These kinds of requirements create a need for qualified staff to do that bureaucratic work and often create an organizational tension between compliance and innovation which can be tricky to manage.
  2. The rapid pace of change often overwhelms the organization’s ability to adapt. Change now occurs at an unprecedented pace and this can threaten organizational focus and functioning. Mission-based leaders must lead their organizations in new ways which support successful organizational functioning in an increasingly complex environment.
  3. An organizational culture exists which hinders effective work. Culture issues can make collaboration, coordination, problem-solving, and innovation difficult. Whether it is a culture of blaming, a culture of unhealthy competition, or one in which people perceive unfair treatment of certain individuals or groups, an unhealthy organizational culture can be the cause of a huge amount of “resource escape!”
  4. Staffing issues. One common issue I hear from mission-based leaders is that too many of the organization’s managers lack skills and effectiveness.  In addition, in a constantly shifting environment, it is sometimes necessary to add staff in one area, reduce in another, and replace staff elsewhere. Whether you need to develop your managers, bring in some new skills, or scale back in some areas, staffing issues must be addressed as any of these can produce myriad resource-wasting results.

Maximizing Your Organization’s Impact

With all these very common resource-wasting challenges inherent in the mission-based organization, what are mission-based leaders to do?

  1. Consistently communicate a clear and compelling direction. Develop effective mechanisms for clearing up diverging opinions among organizational leaders about direction, goals, and priorities. Develop mechanisms for testing whether the direction is clear to everyone. 
  2. Recruit and retain the best. The mission-based leaders who are driven by a mindset of scarcity tend to hire inexperienced and unskilled staff.  To deliver on your promises of quality and care, you need staff at every level to demonstrate judgment and professionalism.
  3. Establish a culture of professionalism and high expectations. Culture matters—a lot.  Mission-based leaders must make it a priority to create and sustain a healthy organizational culture.
  4. Create an organizational structure that empowers staff to make the best decisions on a day to day basis. With increasing complexity and rapid change, it becomes necessary to rely on more staff to make more independent decisions on a daily basis. It’s just not possible to provide constant oversight and direction in today’s world.  And empowered staff will be happier and more productive.

Upcoming posts will explore these four elements of maximizing impact and minimizing resource escapes.

What has been the most frustrating cause of resources flying out the window in your organization??


gt headshot pretty smile 2013

I coach mission-based leaders, provide organizational consulting, facilitate intelligent planning, and train managers.  What would make the greatest difference for you at this time?

Get in touch and let’s talk about how I can help you maximize your mission!

Get in touch at or 720-443-5056

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