When Leadership Initiatives came to Hilltop Consultants looking to streamline their organization and International Business Alliance Program, we were excited to tackle this problem of organizational inefficiencies that is all too common for young non-profits. From our previous projects and prior consulting experience, we understood that for any non-profit looking to expand and grow, nothing is more critical than first establishing a solid foundation upon which it can build. However, organizational inefficiency requires a very delicate correction, for changes that are too extreme or rashly employed can detract from the overall mission of the non-profit or create even more underlying problems or ineptitudes. Nevertheless, we believed that with the right organizational strategy and implementation, we could assist LI in becoming more efficient and in leveraging a stronger impact, thus enabling a more attuned focus to growth and sustainability moving forward.
Origin of Organizational Inefficiencies in Young Non-Profits
Organizational inefficiency is a problem that plagues far too many non-profits across industry and regardless of experience, but is observed far more frequently in younger organizations. It is an issue that stems from ambitious and overzealous organizations that try to do too much too quickly and overextend themselves beyond their resources and managerial capacity. This overextension presents a crucial dilemma for any organizational executive: at what point must one diffuse responsibility to others and sacrifice some control over the organization’s trajectory? When one has been so accustomed to overseeing everything and being responsible for dictating the organizational vision, it is very difficult to transition away from that level of control, not just simply due to pride but also because it poses such a contradiction to being a leader. In Leadership Initiative’s case, the Executive Director was far too heavily involved in the day-to-day operations, preventing him from being able to focus on strategic implementation and organizational sustainability.
Strategy for Alleviating Organizational Inefficiency
From our examination of Leadership initiatives’ organizational structure, we found it to be very top-heavy, with the Executive Director assuming an excessive and exhausting workload, with not enough responsibility being diffused to the mentors and middle administrative tier. To flatten the organization, we proposed a new structure for the International Business Alliance program that is much more balanced with the additional layer of regional mentors to reduce the excessive responsibilities of the Executive Director and add an increased level of guidance and focus to both the mentors and student groups. We believed that altering the International Business Alliance Program’s organizational structure could help create more efficient intra-organizational relationships and allow the program to have a higher impact overall. Rather than having the Executive Director of Leadership Initiatives be the central point of contact for all members of IBAP, the program will run more efficiently if alumni were hired to serve as regional chairs and the point of contact for the set of groups within their given area, and therefore, the Executive Director can focus on the bigger picture organizational goals. Furthermore, we found that Leadership Initiatives also struggled with a lot of process inefficiencies and annual repetition that could be streamlined, a problem many organizations face that grow too quickly. To alleviate this program, we developed a starter kit for Leadership Initiatives to optimize program efficiency. With a rapidly growing student base that makes oversight extremely time consuming, a consolidated starter kit enables a simplified onboarding process and eases annual turnover, while allowing organizational management to refocus attention on organizational growth.
However, at the same time, when implementing changes to organizational structure and processes, it is crucial to bear in mind how they will affect the impact of the organization moving forward. Change that streamlines the organization at the expense of compromising its mission serves only as a detriment. We were careful in our recommendations to find the optimal balance between enhancing organizational efficiency while maximizing Leadership Initiatives’ ability to leverage a stronger impact in their future endeavors.