In partnership with a team of mission-driven leaders, we developed a clear model for aligning Performance and Strategy.


The leaders of a regional grant-based health and education nonprofit were seeking to define their vision to more systematically realize impact. The nonprofit, which serves women in need of physical and mental health services, provides education as an impact-based mission. A board member engaged our lead strategy advisor to develop a research-based strategy for achieving this objective.

Nonprofits face significant pressure to be essential with funding, and from our experience are very intentional about engaging external support. In making these decisions they need to ensure credibility, return-on-time and potential to accelerate impact or help them better realize their mission.


Our team worked closely with the nonprofit’s Executive Director and Board of Director Chair to align their strategic planning with their performance objectives. Through a process of qualitative interviews, we prepared Annual Objectives focused on defining the organization’s “why” and centering it in their decision-making.

Our process of facilitation allowed us to identify key success metrics and focused ways to achieve them. This included a deep dive into defining the organization’s “why” with each committee team using the “Five Whys” Model. Most importantly, we linked the defined “why” to the organization’s operational system.  To accomplish this, we focused on the 3 main drivers of performance:

  1. Objectivity: Refresh leadership on the purpose of the organization. Link it explicitly to the customer – the beneficiary served by the purpose. All decisions are grounded in this link.
  2. Individualization: Core positions are re-framed after strategically employing the individual talents of each employee. Are people aligned to a job or are jobs aligned to people?
  3. Alignment: An adaptive human strategy puts into practice a system with people as the primary driver of positions.  Resulting culture supports the potential of each individual.

With these elements in place, performance management is shifted to a system of Individual Value Contribution.

Performance Management is not about managing performance. Rather, it is about managing the inputs of performance: the factors that equate to an individual’s ability to contribute.

Using these insights, we worked with the Executive Director and Chairwoman of the Board to create a performance dashboard. We also co-created a model for determining the best format for reporting value contribution – the impact they are making in the community of women they serve.


Through our partnership, the nonprofit was able to solidify a clear, evidence-based strategy for managing their impact. Value Ambassadors were appointed to guide the process for each committee, facilitating adherence to the established plan as well as an increased sense of team ownership.

The organization’s leadership is now equipped with purpose-driven guidelines for the utilization of human capital. As a result, they are able to develop the most effective strategies possible for creating human value.


The process of co-creation unearthed 3 key insights into the nonprofit’s challenges and potential in pursuing future change:

  • Discomfort is a part of growth: Challenging discussions can facilitate deeper understanding.

Facilitating the “5 Whys” exercise with this team presented powerful learning opportunities, some of which involved periods of uneasiness. Although the ten-person group was energized at the start of the process, the third, fourth and especially fifth rounds of ‘why’ revealed signs of discomfort among some participants.

Holding firm to the enabling structure was important in navigating this challenge and ultimately resolving it. The richest outcome of this process was the group’s realization that they had lost sight of their primary beneficiary’s input. Instead of concern, they felt joy at this discovery: one they could now act on to better achieve their goals.

  • Decision-rules are key: Clear guidelines for decision-making are always necessary for maximizing impact.

Resource limited environments, like most nonprofits, create two typical scenarios. In the first, the Executive Director is directing (or potentially micromanaging) decisions held largely in their control. Alternatively, the Executive Director is more externally focused, while individual team members are “running their departments”. Further complicating both scenarios are challenges of funding, space, and multiple stakeholders including funders, beneficiaries, volunteers and the community served. Within such an interdependent system, strategy can easily become unfocused.

No matter the industry, organizational type or governance structure, executive leaders and individual impact-creating staff alike must be equipped with clear decision-rules. This sets a foundation for progress and growth, without which individuals move more cautiously and the “sisters of consensus and collaboration” can stifle the realization of the mission.

  • Co-creation unlocks change: Involve diverse contributors to learn and accomplish more.

Three elements of co-creation must be fully integrated into the organization’s system:

  1. Predictive interactions: how the organization serves and/or supports the customer;
  2. Resource consistency: Funding, staffing and stakeholders who are engaged and close-knit with one another; and
  3. Growth orientation: Both human capital resources and financial resources that are aligned to the changing needs of those served.

Frequently different leaders are focused on each of these and the by-product is that they are approached as ‘box-checks’ or as siloed projects. Although a consultant and/or external initiative is often valuable in guiding the process, effective change can only take place through the active engagement of the internal team.

True co-created work brings diverse thinkers, including external advisors, into the experience. The work is then directly accountable to realizing the organization’s purpose and mission.

Learn More

For more information about this partnership and our other collaborative offerings, contact our team. We look forward to discussing how we may be able to help realize your organization’s vision.

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