“Fast” vs. “Right”

In my nonprofit work, I’m currently experiencing the tension between “doing things right” versus “getting the job done.” During the day, I’m advocating for slowing down and getting a few things  done right. On evenings and weekends, I’m trying to get my volunteer board to speed up, and say “this is good enough.” It makes me feel a little bipolar, but context.

For my day job, I represent a small but mighty national organization, that is within spitting distance of being stable, but can’t quite close the gap. For the last two years, we’ve been rapidly experimenting with new programs and strategies to learn as much as we can about what works and what doesn’t. If something blows up, it feels like my organization could cease to exist. We are a team of three and I depend on my paycheck. At the same time, I have a boss who sets the direction.

In my spare time, I volunteer for a small scrappy organization that completely relies on volunteers to execute everything from strategy to programs to marketing to fundraising. I’m surrounded by amazing people with high standards, committed to doing things right  and producing high quality products.  There are approximately 40 of us that make things happen.  Lots of worker bees, but also many Queens. Those in leadership are constantly questioned, and are constantly questioning themselves.

In both of these teams, we’d benefit from a discussion around QUALITY. In a small group setting, I should ask the following questions:

  • What do quality outcomes look like to each of us?
  • What is the feeling we want to convey when our stakeholders interact with us?
  • How do we want to feel about our outputs?
  • Where do we need to get out of the work that we do?

Brainstorm individually, and then have each person share their thoughts. Other participants shouldn’t interrupt. If you’re not sharing, just listen.

After you’re done sharing, ask each other:

  • What are the common elements of our definitions of Quality?
  • What is aspirational for our team?

Together, sketch out a standard that you are trying to achieve. Then put it to use! When questions about perfection or speed come up, test the question. Does X activity help us to meet our definition of Quality?

Have you done something similar in your work or organization? Let us know in the comments!


A new kind of corporate social responsibility

Last summer, I attended a talk by Robert Egger (of DC Central Kitchen fame), hosted by the Denver Office of Strategic Partnerships. Although he talked about a wide variety of things, what stood out was his take on the future of corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Right now, CSR is interchangeable with corporate philanthropy, the practice of giving a portion of profits to some charitable cause. Sometimes it’s great, like Newman’s Own, which donates 100% of its profits to charity.  Sometimes, not so much. Remember the Susan G. Komen/KFC debacle known as “Buckets for the Cure?” In most cases, CSR is just corporate greenwashing – a cover up for pollution or treating workers poorly or ___ (you fill in the blank).

Egger believes that Millennials will drive corporations to make products and services that are ethically created, have minimal environmental impacts, and are generally good for the world. How? Through exercising our purchasing power. Buying better products. Making the sustainable choice at the store.

Millennials are already proving to be a driving force for the green economy. Of our generation, 56% of us are willing to spend more money for the product that guarantees us that it was  ethically or responsibly produced. The same Harris poll showed that a quarter of Millennials are increasing their spending on green and sustainable products.

Robert Egger’s comments have changed the way I look at spending my money. Where I used to search for the cheapest thing that would meet my needs, I’m now on a quest to replace one product at a time with a choice that is better for the planet and for the people that live on it.

Guided by The Good Guide, I started with dish soap, since I’d run out of it at the time.  The Good Guide has expanded it’s rating system to not only tell you if a product contains harmful toxins and how it impacts the environment, but also it now reports on the social impact of that product – how the  company treats its employees, it’s transparency with governance, and the relationships it forms with its community. The social aspect is even more important to me, because I’m very supportive of a higher minimum wage and better treatment for workers.

After doing my research, I’m spending only $0.50 to $1.00 more every two months for dish soap. Not a bad price to pay for a better world.