Landing Well Requires Hard and Soft Assets
You're probably looking closely right now at what's keeping your civic venture jet propelled, hunkered down and worried, or somewhere uncertain in between. Like me, you may be fixating with laser intensity on the strength or weakness of three types of hard assets and three types of soft assets your organization either has or needs.
Your team's knowledge, capability and skills. The combined intellectual power, abilities and skills of the people carrying out any organizational mission distinguish one group from the rest. Crisis has a way of either getting people tuned up to what's needed or helping leaders know just who needs to step off the bus sooner rather than later.
Depth of your working capital. Money banked from precious success or other substitute assets (like people's voluntary time which is as good as money) buys time to adapt to changing conditions. The more robust these assets, the greater your chances of moving more deliberately if you need to change strategies, shift business models, turn an uncertain corner, or winded down entirely.
Cash flow. Money in hand to pay current bills and money due for completed work keeps organization staff active and leadership attentive to mission focus and program effectiveness. My friend Allen Miller of COPE Health Solutions starts to worry if he has less in hand than an amount equal to 10% of his total annual budget along with an additional 20% or so billed and used against services already provided.
Relentless mission focus. Organizations that find themselves either mission-less or straying from a stated mission in pursuit of too-many and too-frequent “new, exciting” opportunities should hear the danger signal of creeping murk. Crisis invariably calls for adaptability, but flex proceeds with greater credibility when leaders act from proven results and not from bumblebee habits of fickle, finicky sampling.
Relationships. Even when the whole harbor is draining, taking all ships down to a new level, it’s certainly reassuring to look across the bow of your vessel and mutually shrug shoulders with other captains and crews. Better in a crisis to keep well within shouting distance of the fiends and colleagues you rose along with in more halcyon days.
Reputation. We live or die in a community and civic organizations by the quality and character of our work and the care with which we go about doing it. Building, protecting and projecting the significance of our reputations has less to do with a boastful ego than with amplifying and investing in precious, hard-won gains for the common good.
I review and think about these assets every day and work on making sure everyone else working at Community Partners does, too. By the time you read this column, we’ll have conducted our internal “Readiness 2009 and Beyond” staff retreat. While girding for challenging times ahead, we’ve come too far to back off. Our past investment in these six hard and soft assets will provide us a critical cushion in the months and years ahead.