Processing Esther

I had an interesting conversation with someone here who said that her boss wanted to strangle Esther Dyson after her talk today. ED had talked about how it’s at least as important for nonprofits to get more efficient, not just to innovate and do new things all the time. She pretty directly said that nonprofits were inefficient and failing to measure and evaluate our work.

These things are at least partially true, but it’s difficult to hear them from an outsider. As I said to the person with the pissed-off boss, it’s sort like how you complain about your mother but you get mad if anyone else insults her. ED had a good point, but it wasn’t delivered well. Either she was the wrong messenger, or she could have framed it more effectively.

From experience I have to say that although small organizations are great at doing a lot with a little, once they begin to grow, they think less and less about how to be strategic with their resources. Now that I work for a humongous nonprofit, I can say that I rarely even try to move the behemoth to do something differently, and when I do say something it usually falls on deaf (or dumb) ears.

1 thought on “Processing Esther

  1. I’ve worked in both the private and nonprofit sectors, and I favor working in the private sector. This is because I find the nonprofit sector to be very frustrating to work in due to high inefficiency, resistance to change, and adherence to a strict hierarchy. Like Esther, I also believe that nonprofits fail to measure and evaluate their work and themselves. For instance, 360 Degree performance reviews are used often in the private sector, and team/department morale is measured on a regular basis. Such management techniques are rarely used in the nonprofit sector for these reasons: 1) Lack of expertise to carry out such tests, 2) Nonprofit management is afraid of what they might find, because it would require a certain amount of change to correct mistakes and make progress – and we all know how much nonprofits resist change. Anyway, enough of my ranting…all I have to say is, I appreciate what nonprofits are trying to do, but I will never work for another nonprofit again due to the rampant inefficiency found in the nonprofit sector.

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