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Berkonomics

What can we learn from the non-profit world?

In the non–profit world, the term, “time, talent and treasure” has been used so often it is almost at the edge of being trite.  It’s used in that arena to describe a volunteer’s sacrifice in support of the non–profit enterprise.

Bending the meaning for use in business…

I was surprised to discover that the term seems undiscovered in the business world. So, let’s bend the meaning to help us focus on resources while preserving those words.

…and apply it to our management of corporate resources.

Here is a way to think about resource management as we make critical decisions that obligate our personal and corporate assets for growth.  Take, for instance, time. I’ve written often about the critical management of corporate time, an asset often squandered by management in inefficient operations that don’t advance the company toward the goal, or worse yet, operations that over–obligate scarce resources creating stress, cost and loss of reputation.

“Corporate time” is quite different from individual time management.  We should always be thinking of how to maximize the efficiency of our most critical resources constrained by limited time, whether they be in R&D, on the production floor, the chief software architect, or even you in management.

How to tell when you’ve overcommitted this resource

[Email readers, continue here…]     We can always tell when this critical resource of corporate time has been over committed.  The bottleneck created becomes obvious and painful.  Is a process or machine too slow to absorb and pass on work coming through it?  Is there a real or digital line at your office door waiting for decisions before proceeding with a task?  Is the R&D department being sucked into solving problems for customers instead of developing new products?  All of these are critical breaks in the management of corporate time.  As a manager, you must attack quickly and completely to remove the bottlenecks.

The second resource: your cohorts’ talent

Jim Collins, in his book, “Good to Great,” addresses talent by describing the managerial skill of “putting the right people on the bus” and culling out the bottom ten percent of low–performing employees.  I’d focus on the former, and to be sure that you’ve trained enough and supplied resources enough for every person in your charge to do an excellent job.  And if a person is not able to perform to expectation, then you have a right and obligation to focus upon a solution to what seems obviously as a talent mismatch.

And the third of these resources to watch carefully:

Treasure is obviously a proxy for capital, whether earned or invested.  There is no doubt that money is a most valuable corporate resource that can be leveraged by good management, great talent, and effective allocation of corporate time.

Think of it as three opposing forces in a corporation. 

Poor allocation of time pulls talent and treasure into the void.  Ineffective talent draws down corporate time and treasure to correct errors and solve for inefficiencies.  And too little treasure causes stress in keeping the supply of the other resources necessary for growth.

Quite different from the non–profit use of the terms, these three linked words remind us of our need to balance our critical resources and make efficient use of each.  Time, treasure and talent.

  • Harley Kaufman

    Hi, again, Dave
    I’ve had the privilege of being in charge of two (now) very successful 501-c-3 orgs for a decade. First lesson is that the commonly used name for them is wrong and leads to an incorrect approach to the business (and yes, 501-c-3’s are businesses!). The proper nomenclature should be “not for profit (NFP)” and I believe this is the way they are described in the IRS code. This change of perspective allows leadership to understand that all the goals of a for a for profit entity should be respected in an NFP. In the NFP world the profit is generally called the “remainder”; a term from the federal reporting document called the “990”. View the NFP as requiring revenue (most often, donations, but may have other sources) to exist, and hopefully have a remainder at the end of the FY to add to their reserves for the rainy day that will, most assuredly, arrive.
    NFPs have a mission statement and goal markedly different from a for profit entity. It is not profit, it is the mission! This may help volunteer leadership (most drawn from for profit entities) to adjust their thinking appropriately.

    Harley

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