Monday, February 28, 2011

Checking For Charity Concept Video

Our first Checking For Charity concept video. This is version 1.0 and it will likely be incrementally improved so please leave comments/suggestions!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Converging vs. Diverging From The Norm

How do you differentiate between a high performing organization and everyone else? There are countless answers that likely differentiate the two. However, as I was sitting in a two hour training seminar for contracting personnel at work today and I couldn't help but notice one extremely important differentiator.

When people hear the term government acquisition, high performing organization is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind. That is not to say that there aren't extremely capable people and teams within the career field because I have definitely worked with both. However, the combination of bureaucracy, regulation, and a risk averse culture of the government procurement career field doesn’t propel it into the ranks of what many consider a high performing organization.

As I sat through the training session I could not help but notice the same phrases directed at the audience. "If you don't do this....then the auditors will slam you," or "You better do this.....or the Inspector General may write you up," and "You should be doing this.......because it is a direct reflection of you and your superior's work." It was relentless and I couldn't help but feeling like I was being pushed around a bit. Threatened almost. The kind of warnings one receives throughout childhood. Unfortunately these kinds of messages are the norm in the government arena. In the government contracting environment individuals are pushed to converge with what is ordinary. In that environment ordinary is good. Ordinary means staying well within bounds. Ordinary means being reactive to any feedback that is filtered down. Ordinary is the safe play. Ordinary (hopefully) keeps your organization out of the headlines.

In my experience, high performing organizations force you diverge from the ordinary. A high performing organization says "You better create or do something new and unique....or something bad will happen to you." There is a distinct incentive to not only break free of the status quo but to change it for the better. Instead of coloring well within the lines you go outside them and establish new boundaries that you would not have known were possible had you not put yourself out there. When an organization forces you to diverge from the ordinary you in essence become extraordinary, and being extraordinary is the epitome of what a high performing organization is all about.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Growth, Bureaucracy, and Creative Collaboration

There have been some exciting things going on with Checking For Charity this year. Since its inception, our team has managed to grow both the size of the tournament and money raised for charity by more than 100%. We are seeking to do the same this year and have set a goal of a 24 team tournament that we hope will raise more than $50,000 for charity. We are structuring to expand to a west coast division and have an even more exciting long term strategy that is yet to be disclosed. So with the continued growth of Checking For Charity what is there to worry about? The same challenges that any growing company faces.

Organizational Balance: Creativity and flexibility have undoubtedly been a large factor in the early success of our charity. We take creative and motivated people and we turn them loose to make things happen for our cause. It is a formula that is not only successful but also extremely rewarding to be a part of. People are empowered to grow and improve their area of influence and I believe they come up with ideas that they wouldn’t otherwise have come up with had the culture been more structured. The flip side of that culture is that you can have a lot of people doing a lot of things in a lot of different directions. Part of my role as President is to ensure that we are implementing ideas that are in line with our strategy as well as ideas that most effectively use our limited resources whether it be money, manpower, or time. In order to do that there must be some corporate structure and organization in place. Having a greater than 100% year over year growth makes this all the more important and urgent. So that is the new challenge of our growing organization. Balancing between staying organized with a clear strategic vision while remaining creative and vigilantly avoiding/destroying unnecessary bureaucracy at the same. It is a difficult challenge that will undoubtedly be with us while we continue to grow but I am confident that we can find the right balance moving forward.

Creative Collaboration: When we first started out we were structured as one team of people where each person carried out a variety of individual tasks that were assigned to them. We have since grown and are now structured more like a traditional business. We have assigned leads to different functional areas to include finance, marketing, hockey operations, etc. Those functional executives run teams of volunteers and are ultimately responsible for actions that fall within their scope of responsibility. Having served in the Air Force for the last five years I have learned valuable lessons as to the potential downfalls of a functional structure. In the Air Force there are often competing priorities, incompatible systems and information sharing, and lost opportunities for synergy between the numerous functional areas. These challenges are sure to arise in varying degrees within any organization that is structured in a functional manner, however I feel that the challenges are just much easier to see in an organization as large as the Air Force or Department of Defense for that matter. So how do we establish a culture where cross functional collaboration is the norm while still empowering the various teams within their given lane? The short answer is that we are working on it. It is a relatively new problem for us but as we continue to expand it will become more important. One way we are seeking to promote a creative, collaborative, cross functional culture is by taking advantage of the amazing new technological aides that are out there.

I was put in contact with an executive of Wasabi Ventures through a very good friend of mine. Wasabi Ventures is a smaller venture capital firm that happens to have stake in PBworks. My friend is involved in a project with Wasabi and was curious if we could benefit from a PBworks account. I was familiar with PBworks because a few of the blogs I read and a few of the people I follow on Twitter were tied to it in some way, however I must admit I was a bit naïve as to what it could actually do for an organization like ours. After discussing similar challenges in our different companies and realizing that CFC could benefit greatly from this service my friend reached out to the guys at Wasabi and before I knew it they had graciously donated a PBworks account to our cause.

PBworks is a real time collaborative wiki. Which basically means that you can share and collaborate on documents in a virtual workspace. You can have the various members of your team collaborating on documents within the workspace. There is a social networking type capability within the system as well where individuals can make comments or recommendations almost like a comment feed on a blog. I am by no means an expert yet but it is very intuitive and easy to use and I am really excited for the possibilities it can bring to our organization’s future. My role, with the help of my extremely organized wife, will be to lay the groundwork for our workspace and corporate organization so that we can incorporate this tool into our culture. With the prospects of a western division expansion in the next year or two, PBworks could not have come at a better time. For those interested in the capability of PBworks you can view a quick demonstration video here.

More to come of the future of Checking For Charity. If you are interested in playing, volunteering, donating, sponsoring, partnering, or anything in between please do not hesitate to contact us at Remember "Our Goal Is To Assist!"