The Organization as a Whole Approach
I first learned the essential need to employ a whole systems approach to organizational planning over 25 years ago, as a principal for a small parochial school in New Haven, Connecticut. Although this example is intentionally simple, it gets to the heart of the challenge of what happens when a whole systems approach is not adopted. To keep the cost of tuition as low as possible, extracurricular expenses needed to be raised outside the approved budget. What became clear during my first year in this community was that the cheerleaders had the commitment and parental support to raise funds each year for new uniforms, jackets, and travel sweats. Yet the rest of the teams were showing up in decades-old uniforms that were an embarrassment to the school community.
Competitiveness between separate departments or programs
Without a systems-wide approach to planning, management, and leadership, organizations can run into a variety of problems. As Angela Montgomery Ph.D. has listed, these include:
- – poor communication among managers and staff
- – lack of shared understanding of goals
- – poor planning
- – lack of clear and authentic overall strategy
- – lack of focus on a leverage point of the system
- – lack of clear ability to understand current reality – not able to join the dots
- – lack of clarity on the outcome that decisions will have
- – lack of clarity on true potential for growth
- – underperformance through lack of ability to deliver projects on time and within budget
What is whole systems strategic planning?
Experts say it better than I will ever be capable of:
“A whole system approach in strategic planning uncovers critical relationships and helps planning teams identify the greatest levers for organizational change. Strategic goals and action steps will be tied clearly to how accomplishing a strategic objective will dissolve a problem and create a new reality. Rather than fixing or replacing a part, a systems perspective in strategic planning optimizes the health of the entire system, enhancing its resiliency and resources to serve its mission and work through obstacles. Creating a desired organizational future requires this whole system approach.” Fred Darbonne
The value of a whole systems approach for fundraising
The organization as a whole approach changes the dynamics of an organization’s fundraising potential. Returning to the story I opened with regarding the cheerleader’s success and the school’s failures, once we developed community buy-in regarding providing support to the entire school, the dynamics regarding funding opportunities changed drastically. When implemented correctly, a whole systems approach will generate a strong rationale for unrestricted funding to any organization.
Feel free to reach out if you’d like to discuss these ideas and how they might apply to your organization: firstname.lastname@example.org