How The Four Decisions Changed A Nonprofit

Haven of Hope is a Salvation Army Ministry Center in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. It provides community programs and serves as a local church congregation. Every three years, each Salvation Army ministry unit must engage an accreditation process. In order to pass the accreditation process the center must achieve a minimum score of 80% in each of the following areas: Governance & Management; Human Resources; Facility; Spiritual & Religious Care: and, Community & Family Services.

Tasked to provide executive leadership, Major Doug Binner arrived at Haven of Hope in 2011, a self-confessed skeptic when, wondering what good could come out of his appointment. Haven of Hope had just failed the accreditation process. One of the requirement action items identified during the accreditation process was the development of a comprehensive strategic plan.

Through his involvement in the Regina Rotary Club, Doug was introduced to Dr. Ken Thiessen. He discovered that Ken was a certified Gazelles Coach who specialized in working with nonprofit organizations. After a casual question posed by Doug to Ken at a Rotary Barbecue led to a coffee meeting, Ken provided an overview of the work he did with nonprofits and, more specifically, the Four DecisionsTM Planning Model. Doug asked Ken to meet with the executive leadership team to talk about the possibility of having him facilitate a planning process with Haven of Hope.

Having been through a previous strategic planning process that had not gone well, the executive leadership team entered the meeting skeptical and cynical. As Ken provided an overview of the Four Decisions Planning model their mood began to shift, captured most poignantly in one comment, “You mean we won’t talk about where the plants should go in the lobby and who should be responsible for it?” to which Ken replied, “There must be a story there!” Turns out the plant’s location in the lobby had been the major outcome of their previous strategic planning process. Ken assured them that if that were the biggest item coming out of the strategic planning process he facilitated, they would have a “come-to-Jesus” conversation. The team agreed to engage Ken’s services and set a date for an initial 2-day planning session.

They arrived at the 2 day planning session cautiously optimistic. Given the interactive nature of the Four DecisionsTM Tools, it wasn’t long before they were fully engaged. Several important outcomes occurred during that process.

• The “Mission to Mars” Core Values Exercise became a profound team building experience as they identified team members they would send to Mars to start a new Haven of Hope branch and the essential Haven of Hope qualities they felt that each team member embodied that really captured.

• The core values they identified became one of the primary filters they used to evaluate everything they did as an organization. Two which most impacted the day-to-day operations were excellence and dignity. Doug led the way in both modeling the core values and calling others to live into them as well.

• Another key outcome of the day came as the team began to identify some of their priorities for the upcoming year. Partnerships were identified as one of their key priorities. Ken invited them to identify a critical number for the next year related to those partnerships. Then he did the unthinkable: he asked Major Doug to be quiet until each department leader had identified the number of partnerships they would be personally accountable for. By the time they made their way through the department leaders, the total number of partnerships was at 16. Ken asked Major Doug what his number had been. Doug sheepishly offered, “5”. The energy in the room was palpable. At the end of the strategic planning day, the business manager came to Ken and with tears in her eyes said, “Thank you. You have changed my view of strategic planning.”

The week following the planning session Ken dropped by the Haven of Hope offices and was rushed by several of the Executive Leadership Team. “We’ve already secured three new partnerships!” During a subsequent visit to their offices, they shared with Ken how they had used their core values to evaluate several of their programs. Since Dignity was one of their identified core values, someone asked in a team meeting whether asking people from the community to sit on the grass at a barbecue lunch was reflective of treating those people with dignity. The unanimous consensus was “of course not!” They decided to set up tables and chairs for every barbecue. The results were astounding. The people who came started to connect with other people who came. Attendance soared and more relationship building took place.

Ken continued regular meetings with the executive team help them with the ongoing execution of their strategic plan. In the spring of 2015, Haven of Hope again went through the accreditation process. This would be the test to determine whether or not their strategic planning process had actually made a difference in their day-to-day operations. When the accreditation process was completed they were informed that not only had they passed the accreditation, they had done so with an average score of 96% in the five key areas. Excellence was not only something they talked about as a core value – it was something that was firmly entrenched as a part of their organizational DNA.

This experience is not unique to Haven of Hope. Gazelles International has a long history of using The Four DecisionsTM Planning Model in mid-growth companies, nonprofits and the social sector and seeing those organizations scale up. Haven of Hope is living proof what happens when a nonprofit agency incorporates a proven strategic thinking and execution planning model along with solid business principles to maximize its impact in making a difference with people who need a hand up not just a hand out.

Posted by: Mary Rarick

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