In 1983, Independent Sector sponsored “Since the Filer Commission,” a research forum conducted in New York, ten years after the Commission on Private Philanthropy and Public Needs had concluded its two-year study into private philanthropic initiatives. The Filer Commission had published its report, Giving in America: Toward a Stronger Voluntary Sector, in 1975.
Sector leaders (including Kathleen D. McCarthy, Pablo Eisenberg, Russy Sumariwalla, Elizabeth T. Boris, Lester Salamon, Jon Van Til, Landrum R. Bolling, and Tracy D. Connors) were asked their opinions regarding: the accuracy of the original commission’s report: about research that had been expanded or continued since the commission had reported 10 years earlier: identification of new issues, new research, or lingering questions still unanswered; and, where did the sector go from that point.
Connors had published the first Nonprofit Organization Handbook in 1980. The Nonprofit Organization Handbook established for the first time that regardless of the specific public service provided, not-for-profit organizations shared seven areas of management—from fund raising to volunteer administration.
The first and second editions of the Nonprofit Management Handbook compiled the fundamental management information needed by NPO leaders in one volume for the first time.
The NPOH pointed out for the first time that while not-for-profit organizations may differ greatly in the type and variety of the public services they provide—e.g. culture versus social services—nevertheless, they generally share seven important areas of management and operations.
As Connors pointed out in his IS presentation and published perspectives, nonprofit organizations, regardless of the type of public service they provide, shared basic management commonalities, e.g., leadership, management and control; human resources management; revenue and support generation; financial management; public relations, marketing and communication; organizational and corporate principles; and, legal and regulatory impacts. While nonprofits exhibit major differences in terms of their public services, in management areas they share much more than they differ.
What was emerging he termed a “horizontal view” of management and the nonprofit sector based on a concurrence that nonprofits share at least these seven areas of management and that “mastery of at least these areas is critical for the success of both the professional and NPO manager, and the organization which he or she leads.”
The Nonprofit Manager
A new category of management professional had emerged, he pointed out – the “nonprofit manager” – a professional, paid or volunteer, who has mastered the management basics of voluntary action organizations. At long last the nonprofit sector had the ability “to generate a curriculum designed to train the nonprofit executive – undergraduate and graduate … Enabling us to provide specific professional training in NPO management so badly needed by our career managers.”
At long last the nonprofit sector had the ability “to generate a curriculum designed to train the nonprofit executive – undergraduate and graduate … Enabling us to provide specific professional training in NPO management so badly needed by our career managers.”
The early 1980’s introduced the first comprehensive handbooks for charitable-philanthropic organization management, and established the basic horizontal management model which exists to this day around which management education in this field is organized. A new management professional had evolved to lead C-POs regardless of their public service: the nonprofit executive.
How myths, stereotypes and prejudice fuel ageism–the Golden Years through a glass darkly.
The Golden years are here at last.
I cannot see, I cannot pee.
I cannot chew, I cannot screw.
My memory shrinks, my hearing stinks.
No sense of smell, I look like hell.
The Golden years have come at last.
The Golden years can kiss my ass.
A “mythos” to the ancient Greeks, was “speech” or “discourse,” but over time the word evolved into meaning “fable” or “legend.” As a story of vague or forgotten origin, often religious or supernatural in nature, a myth is often used to “explain or rationalize one or more aspects of the world or a society” (Doyle, 1997). Typically, myths are actually believed to be true or basically so by those people or societies that used or originated them.
By attempting to explain or rationalize some aspect of human existence or institutions, myths served purposes similar to science, religion and history. To understand a people, a culture, one must attempt to know and understand the myths of that culture. By acquiring that understanding, we not only better understand the present, but we can use that understanding to move in the direction of a better future.
When a myth is repeated and “passed along” throughout the various communication channels used by a society, e.g. news media, internet, blogs, periodicals, it is well on its way to becoming a stereotype–a commonly held, often standardized and simplified concept that has been invested–or charged–with special meaning (Merriam-Webster, 2009). A stereotype is often used in a prejudicial way, particularly when it involves beliefs directed at a person or category of people involving such characteristics as gender, disability, sexual orientation or age.
While a prejudice can be positive or negative, most age-related prejudices are negative and reflect a number of emotions and attitudes, including: fear, antipathy, envy, jealousy and transferred anger by younger members of society. Although a stereotype could be true and objective, when social scientists use the term, they are generally referring to connotations that are both negative and inaccurate. (Haslam, 2004). So, as Tornstam points out “when we find that almost 90 percent of Swedes falsely believe that one in two retirement pensioners suffer from loneliness, we can safely call this belief or image a stereotype.” (Tornstam, 2007, p. 37)
Aging and the aged have long been the subjects of–and many might say, targets of–myth-makers or myth-conveyers in many societies. A recent Google search on the topic “myth” + “aging,” almost instantly generated 2,250,000 “hits.” If a myth serves to explain or rationalize attitudes and aspects of a society, then a review of common myths about aging offers a sad commentary on our contemporary society. Of greater concern is the extent to which misleading myths help perpetuate fallacious stereotypes that are used to make, shape, or alter, public policies and benefits affecting “senior citizens”–fostering ageism.
More than half the people who ever lived to be 65 are alive today, according to Jeanne Sather, who writes on Healthline that myths on aging should themselves be retired. “That alone suggests that myths about aging based on past generations may not hold true for this one.” (Sather, 2008) Wishing a myth away is not supported by research.
“Ageism can be seen…in making scapegoats of older men and women and in stereotyping them. It is seen in the deferral or denial of the realities of aging. Our language is replete with negative references, such as “dirty old man” and “greedy geezer,” that would never be acceptable if applied to any other group…Graphic pictorial images that denigrate old age often appear in our media.” (Bernstein et al., 2006)
When we contrast common myths held by our society about aging with scientific fact, we can understand how Drs. John Rowe and Robert Kahn can reach the conclusion “that our society is in persistent denial of some important truths about aging. Our perceptions about the elderly fail to keep pace with the dramatic changes in their actual status. We view the aged as sick, demented, frail, weak, disabled, powerless, sexless, passive, alone, unhappy, and unable to learn—in short, a rapidly growing mass of irreversibly ill, irretrievable older Americans. To sum up, the elderly are depicted as a figurative ball and chain holding back an otherwise spry collective society.” (Rowe & Kahn, 2009). This summary, by the authors, reflected over ten years of research by the MacArthur Foundation Study of Aging in America.
“WHERE is my SUNDAY paper?!” The little old lady calling the newspaper office, loudly demanded to know where her Sunday edition was. “Madam”, said the newspaper employee, “today is Saturday. The Sunday paper is not delivered until tomorrow, on SUNDAY“. There was quite a long pause on the other end of the phone, followed by a ray of recognition as the little old lady was heard to mutter, “Well, shit… that’s why no one was at church today.” (Principato, 2009)
The MacArthur Foundation study identified many age-related myths in our society, including six that were “frequently heard,” including:
myth #1: To be old is to be sick.
myth #2: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
myth #3: The horse is out of the barn.
myth #4: The secret to successful aging is to choose your parents wisely.
myth #5: The lights may be on, but the voltage is low.
myth #6: The elderly don’t pull their own weight. (Rowe & Kahn, 2009)
“When people think of growing older, they often have images of deprivation, poverty, poor health, loneliness and loss of mental capacity,” Dr. DeLee Lantz points out in the introduction to a National Institute of Aging of the National Institutes of Health questionnaire (Lantz, 2009). Are views held by many likely to be accurate? How true are stereotypes? Are many views about aging and the aged actually myths that are accepted because of repetition?
An objective comparison of frequently held myths about aging reveals a significant gap between the myth and scientific fact. While most of these myths cannot be sustained when compared with scientific findings, the myths persist.
A better understanding of myths related to aging and the degree of their truthfulness is gained by organizing them into three overall categories, including those related to: attention, memory and perception. It should be remembered that these selections represent a very small fraction of age-related myths and stereotypes.
“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
Limited data are available on attentional deficits related to aging. Some cognitive slowing may occur, perhaps due to neural connection loss or loss of information during processing (Cavanaugh & Blanchard-Fields, 2006) However, people at any age can acquire new skills and information.
“When you age, you lose your memory.”
“Think aging is all about losing your memory and becoming hard of hearing? Think again. Many people sail through the aging process without walkers or pacemakers. In fact, researchers now believe it’s those age-related diseases—diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s—that leave us frail or disabled, rather than the normal aging of our bodies.” (Kotz, February 20, 2009)
Older people have more mental problems, e.g. learning, remembering or concentrating.
Nearly five percent of the general population have problems with learning, remembering or concentrating. Of those from 65-74 (10.8%), 75-84 (6.3%), and 85 and older (27.7%) have such problems or issues (Gist & Hetzel, 2004, p. 11). Only the very elderly have significantly greater issues with learning, remembering or concentrating than the general public.
Older people are more subject to variations in heat or cold.
Extremes of heat or cold are more threatening for older people.
True, generally, the body’s thermostat is less efficient as we get older.
Most older people are depressed.
Fact, most older people, according to the National Institute on Aging, are not depressed. When it does occur, it can be treated.
Most older people are deaf or having trouble with their vision.
Over one-third of those over 85 have sensory disabilities, including blindness, deafness or hearing impairment, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. (Gist & Hetzel, 2004, p. 11). However, only 8.7 percent of those 65-74 and 16.9 percent of those 75 to 84 have such disabilities. The “myth” has broader factual support for the very elderly.
The negative effects of ageism on the elderly reach much further than depression, they are thought to reduce life span, as well. For example, in its impressive “Ageism in America” report, the International Longevity Center notes that “older people with positive perceptions of aging lived an average of 7.5 years longer than did those with negative images of growing older.” (Bernstein et al., 2006, p. 61).
More significant overall is the impact on public policy of myth and stereotypes about the elderly. Too often it is the myths, not the facts, that become the foundation for public policy formulation, a process that may well be currently underway in Washington with the Medicare system being revised in ways that can only result in decreased resources and access for millions of American seniors.
Stereotypes persist and resist efforts to combat them with facts, as Tornstam reports in a Swedish study conducted over 23 years. “Little seems to have changed for the better,” he concluded. (Tornstam, 2007, p. 1) However, negative characterizations can be “reversed to ‘positive’ stereotypes at the same time as negative stereotypes of psychological conditions remain the same.” (p. 23) He outlines a new stereotype in Sweden of wealthy, fit and spoiled “pensioners,” who are being characterized as being greedy for staying in their own homes too long; thus, denying the scarce (in Sweden) private housing to younger people.
Sociologists, gerontologists and other enlightened leaders in society are attempting a more pro-active strategy of introducing new metaphors.
Often, field of interest pertaining to the aged and aging can be in conflict. Even while public policy makers are busy creating legislation that has the effect of rationing care for America’s eldery, the scientific community is generally seen as promoting the well being of our aging populations. One positive step is to address the demeaning myth and misleading stereotype with new metaphors. Scientists and other enlightened professionals are taking a leading role in creating and introducing new metaphors intended to “cast a motivating optimistic aura about aging.” (Birren, 2002). Terms like “successful aging,” “productive aging,” and “vital aging” “reflect a rising interest on the part of the research community to attract public interest to areas of research thought to be useful in an aging population.” (Birren, 2002)
Associated Press. (2004, September 7). Ageism in America [As boomers age, bias against the elderly becomes hot topic] (Health/Aging). Retrieved from MSNBC: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5868712/
Bernstein, C., Dennis, E. E., Grossman, L. K., Levy, B. R., McCann, L. A., Rix, S. et al. (Authors). (2006). Ageism in america, Anti-Ageism taskforce (International Longevity Center, p. 121).
Birren, J. (2002). Gerontology. In Encyclopedia of public health (Gerontology, the study of aging). Retrieved from encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3404000376.html
Cavanaugh, J. C., & Blanchard-Fields, F. (2006). Adult development and aging, fifth edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Thomson Learning.
Doyle, B. (1997, April 17). Mythology. Retrieved from Encyclopedia Mythica™: http://www.pantheon.org/articles/m/mythology.html
Gist, Yvonne J.; Hetzel, Lisa I. (U S. Census Bureau). (2004). We the people: Aging in the united states (P. 11) (This report provides a portrait of the social and economic characteristics of the population aged 65 and over in the united states at the national level.1 it is part of the census 2000 special reports series that presents several demographic, social, and economic characteristics collected from census 2000.). Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/censr-19.pdf
Haslam, A. A. (2004). Stereotypes. In A. Kuper & J. Kuper (Eds.), The social science encyclopeadia (3rd ed.). New York: Routledge.
Kotz, D. (February 20, 2009). 5 Common Myths About Aging: If you age well, you shouldn’t have to worry about becoming frail and senile [Best Health: Boomer Health]. Retrieved from http://health.usnews.com/articles/health/baby-boomer-health/2009/02/20/5-common-myths-about-aging.html
Lantz, D. (2009, December 1). Common myths of aging: What’s your aging iQ? [Questionairre to help you test your knowledge of the facts about aging.]. Retrieved from Integrated Psychology Associates: http://www.ipasite.com/MythsofAging.html
Merriam-Webster. (2009). Definition of myth from the merriam-Webster online dictionary [Definition of myth from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary with audio pronunciations, thesaurus, Word of the Day, and word games.]. Retrieved from Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Myth
Merriam-Webster. (2009). Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary [Definition of stereotype from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary with audio pronunciations, thesaurus, Word of the Day, and word games.]. Retrieved from Marriam-Webster: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stereotype
Principato, M. (2009, December 4). Over the hill, getting old, senior citizen humor – old age jokes cartoons and funny photos. Retrieved from pmcaregivers.com: http://www.pmcaregivers.com/Humor.htm
Rowe, J. W., & Kahn, R. L. (2009). Breaking down the myths of aging : Successful aging [The topic of aging is durably encapsulated in a layer of myths in our society. And, like most myths, the ones about aging include a confusing blend of truth and fancy. We have compressed six of the most familiar of the aging myths into single-sentence”]. Retrieved from eNotalone: You are not alone. Articles and forums about relationships and personal growth: http://www.enotalone.com/article/4586.html
Sather, J. (2008, January 28). Retire these 10 myths of aging. Retrieved from Healthline (licensed from StayWell): http://www.healthline.com/sw/wl-retire-these-10-myths-of-aging
Tornstam, L. (2007). Stereotypes of old people persist : A Swedish “Facts on aging quiz” in a 23-year comparative perspective. International Journal of Ageing and Later Life (Linköping University Electronic Press), 2(1), 33-59. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.3384/ijal.1652-8670.072133
The NPO Strategic Mirror is a convenient tool for senior leaders of nonprofit organization to better understand how — or whether — the organization’s strategic planning and deployment are directly linked to outcomes and results that demonstrate improved mission and public purpose accomplishment.
This strategic directions profiling and self-assessment resource is based on the self-renewing management model (Connors, 1997, 2001, 2014), and was most recently used by Norwich University as a tool to review and assess strategic planning by Vermont charitable-philanthopic-nonprofit organizations.
The answers sought on the questionnaire are related to and focused on those management actions, activities, and competencies that senior NPO leaders have identified as contributing to their successes and those of their organizations.
The NPO Strategic Mirror is a strategic directions profiling and self-assessment tool created by Dr. Tracy Connors based on the self-renewing management model (Connors, 1997/2001) and rankings provided by senior NPO practitioners during the Charitable-Philanthropic Organization Self-Renewing Management Model (C-POSRM) Study (Connors, 2014).
About the Strategic Mirror assessment
The actual assessment can be completed in a few minutes by those who are familiar with the organization’s strategic plan and/or related materials. The resulting data can become the focus for analysis, and serve as a form of agenda for any meetings focused on the subject.
The Strategic Mirror assessment and review process helped participating organizations to better understand their organization’s long-range vision, goals and objectives and how these are aligned with the operating environment.
The data collected and developed during the assessments used a combination of both qualitative and quantitative methodologies. It is designed to provide macro level insights into the strategic planning process and documentation, and to do so in the three overarching management domains that represent the organization’ operating environment.
The reviewer – external or internal to the organization – can make a determination about the presence of a management function or action, and the extent to which it seems to be effectively used within the planning process to improve effectiveness or efficiency. The reviewer then assigns their determination to a broad Likkert scale range to generate quantitative data that is then available for other useful purposes, e.g., basic statistical understandings.
The data collected can help provide a broad measure of understanding about the use of these management actions and activities within the organization’s planning processes, how that use compares with other nonprofits, and how the organization’s use of these potential tools within its strategic planning process may change over time.
Need to improve NPO capacities directly linked to improved mission fulfillment
The future of America’s quality of life, in many important ways, depends on the quality and quantity of human services provided by its more than 1 million charitable-philanthropic-nonprofit organizations. America’s C-P NPO’s are under continuing and growing pressure to improve their Effectiveness, Efficiency, Accountability, and Transparency (E/EAT). These pressures and proddings are increasing, a process some have called the “tides of reform.”
C-NPO’s must improve and increase their organizational capacities in ways that are directly linked to outcomes and results that demonstrate improved mission and public purpose accomplishment.
Strategic planning is one of the most critical competencies self-sustaining C-NPO’s attain and practice. However, the results and outcomes achieved as a result of an organization’s strategic planning and deployment will depend on the extent to which the plans reflect and incorporate those management actions, activities, and results that research has identified as among the strongest contributors to organizational performance improvement and mission fulfillment.
Strategic Mirror aligns strategic planning with management actions contributing to performance improvement
“Views from a Strategic Mirror” is a research-based charitable-philanthropic organization self-assessment tool designed to help leaders, managers, and practitioners identify the extent to which strategic planning and related future-focused management processes reflect the incorporation of specific management actions and outcomes that are major contributors to overall organizational performance improvement in the three overarching management domains – Effectiveness, Efficiency, and Transformational Organization.
VSM helps C-NPO leaders conveniently and quickly review and compare their organization’s strategic plan and related documents. The Q&A process provides a convenient reminder of the management actions and/or outcomes that have been strongly correlated to overall organizational performance and success by research and practice. The VSM provides the “mirror” that helps reflect the extent to which the planning process has included and focused on those management/leadership actions and outcomes that are closely associated with organizational performance improvement, and the extent to which the organization has incorporated those contributors to excellence and mission fulfillment into its plans and practices, and used them to define strategic results and outcomes.
Next: Reflections Before the Mirror
Connors, T. D. (2016, October 17). Views from a strategic mirror [A strategic directions profiling and self-assessment tool for charitable-philanthropic-nonprofit organizations created based on the self-renewing management model.]. In NPO crossroads: management domains and outcomes. Retrieved from BelleAire Press, LLC: http://www.npocrossroads.com/management/views-from-a-strategic-mirror/
A Graduate Certificate or Degree in Management…or Not
Should a graduate management degree or certificate be included in my plans to advance my career as a senior manager of a charitable-philanthropic-nonprofit organization?
This is a big question – and one with an expensive price tag. What factors should I consider?
The news media tell us that grad school brings benefits – those having earned advanced degrees tend to earn bigger paychecks and promotions than those who only have an undergraduate degree. For example, if I have a Master’s degree, on average I earn $200 more a week than someone with a bachelor’s degree (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics), or about 15% higher overall income. This is a reflection of improved skill sets, job-related competencies, knowledge base, marketability, and earning potential based on the significantly improved value of the holder to the organization.
Over a lifetime, according to the US Census Bureau, a person with a Master’s degree may earn $400,000 more than one with only a bachelor’s degree.
Attitudes about Master’s degrees have changed significantly since the 1970s when they were often considered simply a consolation prize for students not able to complete their doctoral degrees. Since then, the Master’s degree has evolved into an important professional credential highly valued by most employers.
According to Burning Glass Technologies, graduate degrees are required or preferred in more than 20% of the positions available in the US economy. Increasingly, the professional world values the growing number of managerial positions that require digital skills versus the ones that do not.
Demand for the Master’s Degree is up
The Education Advisory Board in their 2014 custom research brief, Development of Online Master’s Degree in Higher Education Programs, found that nationally, “demand for graduates with skills gained from a master’s degree in higher education increased 54 percent nationally from January 2010 to June 2013. This increase is noteworthy. Additionally, the Board found that Metropolitan areas such as Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA and Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, CD-VA-MD-WV, reflected some of the highest demand for graduates with a master’s degree in higher education.
Connecting the dots strongly suggests that earning a graduate management degree prepares and positions the human services professional to stay competitive in the job market.
A recent national survey and study determined that most NPO senior executives have either a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
However, few of the hundreds of respondents, all of whom were self-selected/reported as C-PO executives, held degrees in nonprofit organization management or even related fields. Over 70% reported degrees from other fields. The next largest source was from the field of social/community services. This may reflect a pattern of internal promotion for social services agencies whose executives perhaps started as hands-on providers of client services.
Less than 5% reported earning degrees in either nonprofit organization management or public administration, respectively. The aggregated totals for all degrees focused on some aspect of management (e.g., business administration, human resource management, NPO management) totaled 18.2%. In short, fewer than one in five reported having any college level educational background in managing any type of organization; and, only approximately 1 in 20 had a degree in NPO management.
Professional credentials. The majority of the respondents (60.4%) had not earned professional credentials beyond their college Bachelor’s Degree programs. Those reporting credentials in the “other” category included holders of non-degree certificates in nonprofit management, certificates from various sources in other categories of management, certifications as facilitator/trainer, or other graduate degree programs.
When asked their preferences regarding additional professional resources, the great majority of the respondents (79%) chose charitable-nonprofit management credentialing programs. The strong response for credentialing suggests that managers and leaders of nonprofit organizations understand and validated the value of the NPM Graduate Certificate and graduate degree program.
The convergence of demands for more effectiveness and efficiency from nonprofit organizations, preferences for Master’s degree holders over those with lesser degrees, and the scarcity of senior managers of nonprofit organizations having any formal management education, argue strongly in favor of including the acquisition of a graduate management certificate and graduate degree in management as important professional development goals and objectives.
In short, Yes, you should consider a graduate degree or certification program. Just make sure it will truly develop competencies you can use to help improve the organization’s results and outcomes.
Is it ethical can often be determined by asking: when I am vulnerable, can I trust you?
Perspectives on Ethics
Ethics and Social Theory
Hosmer (1995) traces the fundamentals of ethics to a variety of social theories that deal with an individual’s need to feel secure – to be comfortable in approaching interactions with others, particularly dependent interactions, and trust in a favorable outcome. When people trust, they willingly increase their vulnerability to the actions of others whose behavior is beyond their control. When people trust, they consciously regulate their dependence on someone else in various ways depending on the person, the task, and the situation. In other words, when we trust we except our vulnerability and dependence on the actions of others because a greater good is expected to be attained.
The act of trusting includes the expectation that the person organization on whom we are depending will perform an action or provide a service in a way that is beneficial to us and not detrimental. These expectations explain why we forgo or delay taking defensive actions. Hosmer (1995) explains trust based on four moral values, including:
integrity (our assessment of the person organization’s honesty and truthfulness);
competence (the collective evaluation and assessment of interpersonal skills and technical knowledge needed to successfully perform the function we are seeking);
consistency (predictability and good judgment); and,
reliability (their willingness to protect and support our interests, to do so willingly, and to freely share ideas and information).
The process of elaborating upon and acting according to our value structure, i.e., ethics, represents values in practice, as well as the assessment and critique of values. When values, responsibilities, or rights, are in conflict, an ethical dilemma can present itself (Mitzen, 1998).
Ethics is a process that includes analyzing and assessing those components used to define and justify morality in its various forms, e.g., logic, values, beliefs, and principles (Cooper, 2006). Ethics considers the articulated or mandated moral code and examines it to better determine its meaning and purpose. Ethics attempts to explain and assess moral conduct through systematic reflection and reasoning (Cooper, 2006). Descriptive ethics attempts to identify and explain the underlying assumptions and connections to conduct. Normative ethics articulates supportable cases and arguments for particular conduct in a specific situation (Cooper, 2006).
Ethics has two essential orientations: deontological (duty to uphold ethical principles without regard for the consequences of one’s actions); and, teleological (concern for the consequences or outcome of one’s conduct). As Cooper (2006) points out, ethics should involve a more systematic consideration of the values and principles that effect the choices we make, their consistency with our duties, and the incident consequences toward which they lead.
A dilemma (from Greek, ambiguous situation), apparently forces us to choose between two, often contradictory, alternatives. I say “apparently,” since a reasoned, deliberate and orderly assessment of the issue can often produce different alternatives, much better suited for solutions or resolution. As an aside, this form of false or fallacious reasoning – is known as false dilemma (or false dichotomy, fallacy of bifurcation, or black-or-white fallacy).
Meneghetti and Seel (2001) emphasize the importance for NPO executives to be able to deal with real-life ethical dilemmas that are both rich and context and consequence. An ethical dilemma, they explain, typically includes five fundamental characteristics:
• it is hard to name precisely;
• it is embedded within a specific individual or organizational context;
• it may not even be obvious;
• the claims of multiple stakeholders are involved and should be addressed; and,
• that involves a situation where the manager or leader wants or intends to do the right thing, but may not know what the proper course of action may be or how to accomplish it (Meneghetti & Seel, 2001).
The authors outline a four-step ethical decision-making model in which: the primary stakeholders are identified; the problem is addressed from the point of view of each of the identified stakeholders (including the key ethical values being violated); actions determined that should be taken given each stakeholders concerns; and, a decision finalized once the positive and negative consequences of each action are better known. The objective, they explain, is to choose the option that, on balance, minimizes harm, reduces negative consequences, and produces the greatest balance of good in the long term (Meneghetti & Seel, 2001).
In my view, both models could be strengthened by incorporating their relevant steps into a rational model that suggests a more nuanced process. The following model represents an ethical decision-making process incorporating the views of both Cooper and Meneghetti and Seel (2001).
Typically, we can identify three major areas where ethical problems can arise, according to Mitzen (1998), including: business practices; employee relations; and, interactions and relations within the larger community or external operating environment. Ethical behavior toward its own staff and volunteers should be a foundation and a given for any nonprofit organization. This includes meaningful communication, and a supportive environment where even whistle blowing, with its inherent potential for divisiveness and conflict, is seen as an expression of several fundamental core values, e.g., responsibility to the publics being served. Organizational core values should be clearly articulated, and clear policies developed as to how they are operationalized.
Nonprofit organizations should have “organizational ethics mechanisms,” that identify how the organization educates its people regarding ethics related issues and how it integrates ethics into its operations and organizational structure (Mitzen, 1998).
Ethical decision making model
Cooper (2007, p. 31) introduces his readers to a five-step ethical decision-making model, the objective of which is to challenge us to think about what is needed to move from an ethical problem facing us, to a reasoned, orderly, sequential course of assessment and analysis intended to resolve or solve the challenging issue. His model represents a framework through and by which a determination can be reached and a rational, fact-based decision achieved for the most promising course of action. The author correctly points out that no on model can provide the single best possible or “correct” solution. It can however, provide a template through and by which the problem is assessed, evaluated, and converted into an opportunity to creatively designed “the best solutions for a given individual in a specific situation within the uncertainties and time limits of real administrative life” (Cooper, 2007, p. 30).
Rather than accept Cooper’s ethical decision-making model as the definitive illustration for the steps in ethical decision-making process, we should remember there are a wide variety of potential models suggested proposed for decision-making, in general. Depending on the situation, those faced with an ethical issue or dilemma might well consider using Cooper’s model and others as guides that can be adapted to the situation, producing a more specific and situationally focused ethical decision-making model.
As McDermott (2011) points out, there are a number of decision-making models from which to choose. The manager even has to make a decision as to the one best suited for the situation, e.g., rational models, intuitive models, rationalist-iterative models, as well as models that have been suggested in a variety of “steps.” Cooper’s model most closely resembles the six-step, rational decision-making model that includes the following phases: define the situation and the desired outcome; research and identify options; compare and contrast each alternative and its consequences; make a decision or choose an alternative; design and implement an action plan; and evaluate results (McDermott, 2011).
Figure 1 Ethical Decision-making process model
The term “role” has its origins in medieval Latin and the word ro(tu)lus, a roll of parchment, that in turn was derived from earlier Latin rotulus, a small wheel. In the Middle Ages the part or character played by an actor in a dramatic performance was written out on a rolled up parchment or paper. The part soon became associated with the means used to describe and explain what the character did in the performance–a role. Keeping the etymology of the term in mind helps us better understand the meaning and implications of the term as it is used today.
Luthans (1995) explains that a norm – the typically unwritten but generally understood rules of a group, culture, or society for behaviors that are considered not only acceptable, but expected – represents the “oughts” of behavior. Collections of norms represent prescriptions for acceptable behaviors expected by, and sometimes determined by, the group.
A role consists of a defined set and pattern of norms associated with a position (defined or undefined but “understood” by the group), that is filled or acted out by an individual. A role can perhaps best “be defined as a position that has expectations evolving from established norms” (Luthans, 1995, p. 380).
Roles in Management
A role is an organized set of behaviors identified with a position, Mintzberg (1975) explained. He noted that formal authority is the basis for three interpersonal roles, leading to three informational roles. Together, the interpersonal and informational roles provide the tools to play four decisional roles.
Interpersonal relationship roles, include: figurehead role (ceremonial duties); leader role (responsibility for the work of the people in the unit–hiring/firing, motivation, encouragement); and, the liaison role (contacts outside the immediate work unit).
Informational roles, include: monitor and disseminator (collecting/disseminating soft information for his unit/organization); and spokesman (collecting, positioning, and sharing information with outsiders.
Decisional roles include: entrepreneur (identify new ideas and pursuing opportunities that advance the organizational unit’s objectives); disturbance handler (responding to changes and pressures affecting performance of the unit organization); resource allocator (decisions relating to allocations of resources and the empowerment of subordinates decisions and program contributions).
Collectively, Mintzberg (1978) suggests the managerial role represents a gestalt – an integrated whole greater than the sum of its individual parts. The managers performance depends directly on the extent to which he or she understands and effectively response to the demands and dilemmas of the position. Although often tempted by the short-term benefits of “busy work”, managers should resist the pressures of superficiality by giving serious attention to those issues that require it by keeping the broad picture in mind and by using a variety of analytical inputs” (Mintzberg, 1978, p. 60).
The term we use to describe the worth of an object or concept – its monetary status, desirability, usefulness, importance to the possessor, utility, or merit – is “value.” The term can be traced back to its Latin roots of “valere,” to be strong, to be of value. It can even be traced back to the Indo-European language, from which so many of our present day languages originate, where it meant “to be strong,” “to rule,” “force,” or “power” (Morris, 1981, p. 1415).
Values typically refers to those “strong and enduring beliefs that motivate and define behavior. Values inform the choices we make. They are a statement of what is ‘good’ for individuals and for society” (Mitzen, 1998, p. 103). Values define those things we believe in, and what we consider important in our life and work.
Meneghetti and Seel ( 2001) point out, values represent strongly held attitudes and beliefs regarding what is desirable. However, not all values necessarily have an ethical component, e.g., power per se is neither good nor bad. Those values not having broad societal implications and that are typically held private are considered morals. These attitudes and beliefs held by individuals regarding what is worthwhile or good, are derived from and influenced by family, culture, society, and religion. Typically, public values are considered ethical values, more universally accepted beliefs about what is right or wrong.
Values and Roles
Each role “comes equipped” witha set of values attached that reflect guidelines to behaviors expected for those “playing” that part, e.g. leader value of “cheerleader” (motivator).
Discrimination includes treating or considering, or making distinctions regarding a person or some other entity based on the group, class, or category to which that person or entity belongs, rather than on individual merits (USLegal, 2011). Trevino and Nelson (2007) explain that discrimination can occur in cases where considerations other than qualifications affect how an employee or associate is treated. For example, the committee identified a minority member to survey a minority population on an issue that should have had nothing to do with one’s identification with or membership of a group other than that of “employee.”
Discrimination represents an important ethical issue and problem in the workplace due to its corrosive effect on perceptions of fairness. When the workplace is not fair, ultimately our entire legal system promising justice and protection of individual rights is in jeopardy.
Many case studies reviewed by students outline possible cases of de facto discrimination that could rapidly devolve into the condition known as a “hostile work environment.” Further, the conditions as outlined in some case studies, if valid (not simply perceived) could meet the requirements for an official investigation, followed by official action.
Values conflicts and ethical dilemmas
Values conflicts presented as ethical dilemmas will certainly face all of us as managers from time to time, and there may be no completely satisfactory resolution. This eventuality must not be used to rationalize their moral or unethical behavior.
Codes of ethics, although helpful, cannot be depended on to solve all values conflicts. In fact, some may use them to appear to “stay within the law” while actually infringing on truly ethical conduct.
Unethical actions can really be hidden and self enforcement helps insulate the manager and the organization from external scrutiny, or enforcement. Finally, as leaders and managers of our respective organizations, we have a personal and professional interest in being alert to potential ethical dilemmas in situations, and to employ an orderly ethical decision-making process to seek effective resolution.
Morals or morality, originating from the Latin word for “custom,” typically refer to those judgments and characteristics of our actions that can be defined according to our core values as good” or “bad/evil.” Morality is assessed using various standards or precepts of goodness or codes of behavior. Morality represents a set of customs within a society, class, or social group that attempt to regulate relationships and prescribed behaviors that enhance the group’s survival (Morris, 1981, p. 853).
Morality is based on presumption of what is an accepted mode of behavior that is established or provided by an authoritative source, e.g., religion, culture (including that within a group organization), social class, community, or family (Cooper, 2006).
Ethos as Moral Custom
The Greek term for a moral custom was ethos, a meaning which has expanded for hundreds of years to now include a principle of right, correct, or good conduct, including a body of such principles. Ethical came to mean a practice that was conducted within the accepted definitions of right and wrong, and governed the conduct of the group. Ethics represents the general study of morals, including the rules or standards by which the conduct of a group or profession are evaluated and judged (Morris, 1981).
Codes of Conduct
Organizational codes of conduct – ethical standards – can be seen as articulations and declarations of core values and acceptable behavior on the part of the individual or organization that its actions and decisions can, indeed, be trusted. Applied to ethics, Hosmer (1995) suggests that trust is the result of behavior that recognizes and protects the interests of others – the overriding goal being to increase cooperation and achieved benefits within a joint endeavor or exchange.
Trust is a relationship in which some personal or organizational vulnerability is accepted because our analysis suggests a collective, general optimism is justified in a mutually beneficial outcome based on expectations or conditions of moral (socially expected and /or defined as acceptable) behavior.
Codes of ethics and conduct such as those endorsed by APA, represent the standards of practice supported, espoused, and directed by that organization. The codes delineate and outline the collective values of that professional organization, and typically cover a number of ethical areas and considerations. Most codes of ethics and conduct include two major components, including: definitions and explanations for recommended or mandatory professional behavior on the part of those professionals practicing in that field; and, what Kocet (2006) explains is encouragement regarding ethical reflection to help clarify and improve the fundamental ethical beliefs held by that profession.
A hypothetical but realistic scenario facing some NPO leaders and managers today might be assessed using this blended model along the following lines… Awareness of situation…
The human services nonprofit organization for which you serve as the Executive Director, has recently lost the source of revenue on which the organization depended to fund the volunteer resource manager position. Situational description…
In an effort to balance the organization’s budget before reaching a dangerous state of insolvency, the organization’s personnel committee, comprised of three members of the Board of Directors, has met and is prepared to recommend the termination of the paid staff position of volunteer resource manager, in favor of replacing that staff member with a volunteer.
Board of Directors
Their loyalty to the organization and their sense of fiduciary responsibility, represent important core values in play. NPO senior staff
Loyalty to the organization, loyalty to staff, fairness, professionalism, teamwork, integrity, and mutual respect are among the core values initially identified as important to senior staff members. Volunteer resource manager
Security, fairness, loyalty, professionalism, are all expected core value issues with the staff member most directly affected by the committee’s recommendation.
There are other potential stakeholders that could be considered in this explanation, e.g., the organizations volunteer corps, the membership, clients depending on the volunteer services, and the community at large.
The Board of Directors feels a primary responsibility to their fiduciary duties and seeks an outcome of a balanced budget.
The senior organizational staff are quite concerned about the negative ramifications of a pending termination on the organization’s morale and esprit de corps, its operational effectiveness in light of a change in volunteer management from seasoned professional to an individual lacking equivalent training, and the devastating economic consequences to the soon-to-be former volunteer resource management professional. The senior staff would prefer to retain their colleague and to ensure the continuation of the organizations exemplary record in human services delivery through its effectively managed volunteer resource program.
The volunteer resource manager, although not yet aware of the pending recommendation from the committee, can certainly be expected to be devastated by the news. The potential for “political” fallout from the individual should be considered significant. Clearly, their desired outcome would be that the issue never presented itself in the first place, and that they be retained in their present position.
Selected course of action: following a confidential meeting of the senior staff in which the situation was reviewed in great detail in terms of ethical principles, moral rules, and potential ramifications, the senior staff voted to accept a temporary 5% pay cut to ensure the continuation of the volunteer resource manager until additional funding sources could be identified. The group decision unified the staff around a common purpose, reaffirmed important core values for them and for the organization, and upheld the Board of Director’s fiduciary responsibilities, including the continuation of a balanced budget.
Ethical perspective in NPO management literature since 1980
One approach to achieving better understanding of an emerging trend is to do so within what could be seen as an historical perspective or framework. In this case, the baseline for the framework is the publication in 1980 of the first Nonprofit Organization Handbook (Connors, 1980).
The handbook was organized around the premise that regardless of the specific human service provided by a nonprofit organization, all shared seven fundamental areas of management, including: organization and corporate principles; leadership, management and control; sources of revenue; human resource development and management; fiscal management (budgeting, accounting, and record-keeping); and, public relations and communications.
A review of the index for this first edition reveals a single entry under the category “ethics.” The context in which it was used within the book was an observation that “a growing number of nonprofit organizations now employ a professional manager, a full-time paid employees and supervisors and is responsible for the daily routine business of the organization” (Connors, 1980b, p. 2-70). The single reference to ethics and this major handbook appeared when the author noted that the area of managing nonprofit organizations has become a profession itself “with its own high code of ethics and standards” (Connors, 1980b, p. 2-70).
Over the next 21 years five subsequent major handbooks focused on nonprofit organization management were published, the latest in 2001 (Connors, 2001). A review of the index for this volume offers a startling contrast to the first NPO handbook. The subject of ethics appears throughout the book with multiple page coverage focused on ethics in all aspects of managerial behavior and policy, including: behavior; budgeting; compensation practices; fundraising; human resource management; international business; and, numerous mentions of professional codes of conduct. An entire chapter is devoted to “Ethics and Values in the Nonprofit Organization” (Meneghetti & Seel, 2001). Clearly ethics is now understood to be a critical component of NPO management and decision-making.
Ethics and Public Trust
Dr. Joan Pynes contributed a most important chapter to the The Volunteer Management Handbook (Second Edition), entitled, “Professional Ethics for Volunteers” (Pynes, 2011). The author points out that to survive nonprofits must maintain public trust. One important component of that collective trust is based on paid staff and organizational volunteers fulfilling their responsibilities in a lawful, ethical, and competence manner. This objective far exceeds simply complying with formal controls, program reports, and financial audits. Instead, it is vitally important that nonprofits establish an aspirational internal ethical climate.
Pynes (2011) recommends that NPO managers establish a strategic human resource management program that uses defined and formal systems within the organization to ensure the most effective use of staff and volunteer resources to fulfill the organization’s mission. There is no doubt the nonprofit sector currently faces many daunting challenges. Nor is there any doubt that new problems and changes within external and internal environments will constantly present themselves to all of our managers and leaders.
The people on whom our nonprofits depend to fulfill our organizational missions, are highly affected by the cultures we establish within which they must participate and contribute. Clearly articulated values, ethical principles, and codes that explain how our ethics are interpreted and used for action and decision-making, are highly significant –they define our culture and the relationships between those who were members of that culture. When inevitable ethical dilemmas present themselves, the successful NPO executive will know to follow a well-defined ethical decision-making process to find the best possible solution or resolution.
Connors, T. D. (2016, February 17). Perspectives on ethics: When I am vulnerable, can I trust you? [Is it ethical can often be determined by asking: when I am vulnerable, can I trust you?]. Retrieved from NPO Crossroads: http://www.npocrossroads.com/management/perspectives-on-ethics-when-i-am-vulnerable-can-i-trust-you/
Connors, T. D. (1980). The nonprofit organization handbook. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Cooper, T. L. (2006). The responsible administrator: An approach to ethics for the administrative role (5th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass/Wiley.
Hosmer, L. T. (1995, April). Trust: The connecting link between organizational theory and philosophical ethics. Academy of Management Review, 20(2), 379-404. doi:10.5465/AMR.1995.9507312923
Kocet, M. M. (2006, Spring). Ethical challenges in a complex world: Highlights of the 2005 ACA Code of Ethics. Journal of Counseling & Development, 84(2), 228-234.
Luthans, F. (1995). Organizational behavior (7th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
McDermott, D. (2011). Six step decision making process [Web page]. Retrieved April 16, 2011, from Decision-making-confidence.com: http://www.decision-making-confidence.com/six-step-decision-making-process.html
Meneghetti, M. M., & Seel, K. (2001). Ethics and values in the nonprofit organization. In T. D. Connors (Ed.), The nonprofit handbook: Management (3rd ed.) (pp. 579-609). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Son.
Mintzberg, H. (1975, July). The manager’s job: Folklore and fact. Harvard Business Review, 53(4), 49-61.
Mitzen, P. (1998, Fall). Organizational ethics in a nonprofit agency: Changing practice, enduring values. Generations, 22(3), 102.
Morris, W. (. (1981). The American heritage dictionary of the English language. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton-Mifflin Company.
Special population law & legal definition [Special population is a term that is generally used to refer to a disadvantaged group.]. (2010). Retrieved June 10, 2010, from Special population is a term thatis generally used to refer to a disadvantaged group.: http://definitions.uslegal.com/s/special-population/
Trevino, L. K., & Nelson, K. A. (2007). Managing business ethics. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Son.
When our goal is understanding, it is generally a good rule, if time permits, to explore the foundations – the roots – of the concept and principle. Often, we find those explorations, similar to the actual roots which we use as a metaphor, lead us in directions and with twists and turns that were unexpected, but interesting and insightful for our purposes.
English and most of the so-called Romance Languages share origins with a language that existed about five thousand years ago: Proto Indo-European. When we seek a deeper or more fundamental understanding of a word or term, and we can sometimes trace its origins to Indo-European, where new insights and perspectives can often be found. Clearly, even long before then our ancestors needed a word to convey the meaning “to fly.” By extension, that term – a suffix “pet” – soon conveyed the meaning “to rush.”
As the proto Indo-European language branched and fragmented and evolved and was mixed and remixed throughout Europe and beyond, “pet” had been applied in new situations. By the time it had reached Latin many centuries later, it had expanded its meaning to convey the sense of going forward, therefore, seeking. By combining com- and petere, the meaning broadened into asking for, seeking, pursuing, or striving to gather.
Competere continued to be used and its meaning broadened as it made its way into English through Old French and then Middle English. Today, in general, competent conveys meanings which include to be capable of (suitable, adequate, qualified) of striving with others, together in the same activity, as in a contest, match or trial of skills or abilities in which the outcome is measured in terms of success or achievement. When we are after the same thing, and doing so with others, we are seeking and striving together. We are said to be in competition with others when we are seeking, generally or specifically, the same thing(s), e.g., a job, a promotion, a mate, a goal.
Competent is the term we most likely have in mind when we want to convey the meaning of capable or qualified, adequate, suitable or sufficient for the purpose – in short, to be prepared for the challenges of striving with others in the same basic activity(ies) that are measured by success or achievement.
And to think, the original meaning was to fly. However…
Just because we may be seeking the same things as others, does not necessarily mean we have, as the saying goes, “the right Stuff,” to be successful, i.e. – to have the combination of knowledge, behaviors, skills, actions, activities, that when performed effectively in the area in which we have chosen to strive with others, enables us to “fly or rush forward,” to get there first, and secure the prize we seek.
Increasingly these days, having the Right Stuff to rush forward in order to get there first and fly away with the prize, first requires “flight school and pilot training.” But before we can fly, we must complete “ground school,” where we explore the relevant, organized body of factual or procedural information (Knowledge), learn the required proficiencies in manipulating data or things (Skills), and demonstrate the power – mental or physical (including the requisite skills)— and behaviors needed to perform an activity or task at a high level of competency (Abilities).
Enriched Information Required to Make Knowledge Needed to “Soar” and “Seize”
Every day most of us try to swim in a Tsunami of what purports to be Information, but it is probably just data, and it certainly isn’t Knowledge.
As we prepare ourselves for successful soaring and seizing, we need to understand the “enrichment progression” ocean and hierarchy in which we swim every day.
The Data, Information, Knowledge, and Wisdom (DIKW) enrichment progression hierarchy was proposed by Ackoff (1989), and discussed by Bellinger, Castro and Mills (2004). The five levels of the DIKW hierarchy include:
Bit: a digit in the binary number system. It can have two values, 0 or 1. In computer RAM and ROM memory, a bit is a small electrical switch which is either on (value 1) or off (value 0). A bit (short for “binary digit”) is the smallest unit of measurement used to quantify computer data. It contains a single binary value of 0 or 1. When someone brushes off information as “just ones and zeros,” the bit is what they mean.
Byte: bits are often grouped together in 8-bit clusters called bytes. Since a byte contains eight bits that each have two possible values, a single byte may have 28 or 256 different values. Computer memory is often expressed in megabytes or gigabytes.
Data: raw symbols/factual information that has no significance other than its existence, which can be collected and organized to enable reference or analysis.
Information: Data that has been given meaning (form and shape conceptualization, and thus, the ability to be useful) through relational connections–perhaps useful, perhaps not. (Think: relational database.)
Knowledge: An organized body of information, usually factual or procedural in nature–collected information with the intent to be useful, e.g. for example, answers the question “how.” The potential meanings inherent in previously unrelated information are given additional value of utility, of being able to be put to a particular use. The now connected information justifies, or makes the case, for our belief in the truth of our conclusions and supports our using them as a basis for decisions or actions.
Understanding: Cognitive, analytical state of new knowledge synthesized from previously held knowledge.
Wisdom: Connotes predictability based on understandings, in turn, based on previous understandings. Includes the processes of determining right from wrong, i.e. judgment.
Adapted in part from the Data, Information, Knowledge, and Wisdom (DIKW) enrichment progression hierarchy proposed by Ackoff (1989), and discussed by Bellinger, Castro and Mills (2004).
Knowledge, Skills & Abilities (KSA’s) Enriched Into Competency
Similar to the DIKW progression of function and usefulness, combining Knowledge, Skills and Abilities as a progressive hierarchy or “pyramid” of proficiency, suitability and readiness to fulfill job-related responsibilities provides the basis for a much richer, more practical and useful state: Competency.
Collectively, KSA’s include the qualities and competencies (ability of an individual to perform a specific function or job) required to perform a job and that are generally demonstrated through qualifying service, education, or training.
NPM KSA’s are recognized, observable management or leadership attributes and behaviors that have been acquired or developed through experience, e.g. proficiency, ability, expertness, or technical competence in managing/leading non-profit, charitable-philanthropic organizations. Establishing an adult-centered learning environment specifically focused on providing those competencies identified by practitioners as highly valuable to them as management tools should be a primary objective of any graduate university NPM concentration.
KSA’s represent a general answer or response to the implied question by potential employers: “what can you do that will help me achieve my goal(s) (e.g., make a profit, provide a service)?”
Relevant Management Knowledge Definitions
The proficient manual, verbal, or mental manipulation of data or things. Skills are the natural or learned capacities (expertise) to perform specific acts, usually with pre-determined results or outcomes. That capacity includes the proficiency, facility and/or dexterity obtained or developed through training and experience.
In management education contexts: recognized, observable management or leadership abilities and competencies that have been acquired or developed through experience, e.g. proficiency, ability, expertness, or technical competence in managing/leading non-profit, charitable-philanthropic organizations.
The power, mental or physical (including the requisite skills), to do something, typically meaning to exhibit appropriate behaviors (or behaviors that result in an observable product/service) that accomplish something at a high level of competency. Also, qualities that enable a person to accomplish something within a specific environment or situation.
In management training and education environments abilities should be validated through the written projects and products prepared by the student, including: SWOT analysis, Strategic Plan analysis, HR/VRM plan analysis, Communications/Marketing Plan analysis, Budget/Financial analysis, and Program Review/Evaluation analysis.
The term competence or competency conveys the general meaning of being capable or qualified; adequate, suitable or sufficient for a/the purpose; a synonym is ability. The word is derived from Latin, competens; generally, to be capable of (suitable, adequate, qualified) of competing (striving with others, together in the same activity), as in a contest, match or trial of skills or abilities in which the outcome is measured in terms of success or achievement.
Competency includes the ability of an individual to perform a specific function or job. Typically, that job or function resides within an organization setting, and represents a predetermined aggregation of behaviors, actions, activities, that when performed effectively, produce outcomes (e.g., service, product) that are valued/needed by the organization, e.g., contribute in some way to its ability to fulfill its mission and purpose.
Thus, competency represents the collective, combined ability of an individual to use applicable knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform a function to an acceptable level of proficiency, especially in conditions or situations where others are performing similar functions. Therefore, demonstrated competencies help validate that an individual has acquired the KSA’s needed for a position or function.
Competencies refer to the collective abilities that enable an individual to properly perform a function or a job – to be successful in their positions and/or responsibilities. Competency combines theoretical Knowledge, cognitive Skills, and the acquired Abilities needed by an individual to perform a specific role. In short, competencies include all of the Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, Values, and Behaviors, that have been identified by an organization or professional association as needed by individuals in order to successfully fulfill a position of responsibility.
A job represents a collection of responsibilities for actions and activities, the successful fulfillment of which requires an incumbent with the requisite knowledge, skills and abilities. Some jobs or areas of responsibility pertain to environments or situations that are ambiguous or volatile, e.g., emergency services. Competency in these positions requires a different set of abilities, e.g., situational awareness and a repertoire of potential actions and activities needed to bring about the desired outcome.
Competencies should be an integral component of a job/position description. In turn, the position description should be aligned with the organization’s purpose and strategic goals. Collectively, when properly defined, aligned with strategic goals and objectives, and practiced by enough people in the organization, core competency(ies) can become an organization’s strategic strength. Competency understanding, clarity and alignment with strategic directions enables organizations to define the behaviors needed within the organization to produce the results needed to achieve organizational performance goals.
“KSA” Spells Competency
Competency is the ability of an individual to perform a specific function or job. Typically, that job or function resides within an organization setting, and represents a predetermined aggregation of behaviors, actions, activities, that when performed effectively, produce outcomes (e.g., service, product) that are valued/needed by the organization, e.g., contribute in some way to its ability to fulfill its mission and purpose.
Thus, competency represents the collective, combined ability of an individual to use applicable knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform a function to an acceptable level of proficiency, especially in conditions or situations where others are performing similar functions. Therefore, demonstrated competencies help validate that an individual has acquired the KSA’s needed for a position or function.
Job represents a collection of responsibilities for actions and activities, the successful fulfillment of which requires an incumbent with the requisite knowledge, skills and abilities. Some jobs or areas of responsibility pertain to environments or situations that are ambiguous or volatile, e.g., emergency services. Competency in these positions requires a different set of abilities, e.g., situational awareness and a repertoire of potential actions and activities needed to bring about the desired outcome.
Job/Position description. Competencies should be an integral component of a job/position description. In turn, the position description should be aligned with the organization’s purpose and strategic goals. Collectively, when properly defined, aligned with strategic goals and objectives, and practiced by enough people in the organization, core competency(ies) can become an organization’s strategic strength. Competency understanding, clarity and alignment with strategic directions enables organizations to define the behaviors needed within the organization to produce the results needed to achieve organizational performance goals.
Competence and Motivation
The term “confidence” is often defined in terms that include the quality of effectiveness, sufficiency, ability, and success. Most sources analyzing competence do so based on the premise that it is an inherent psychological need for human beings. In short, most authorities see the need for competence “… As a fundamental motivation that serves the evolutionary role of helping people develop and adapt to their environment… Individuals learn to direct this general motivational energy using concrete, cognitively-based goals and strategies…Learn to use self-regulatory tools to channel their general desire for competence toward specific outcomes and experiences that satisfy the competence need” (Elliot & Dweck, p. 6). Significantly, competence-related behavior also includes motivations to avoid the negative outcomes and emotions generated by possible incompetence.
Confidence motivation and competence achievements have a substantial impact on our emotional profile and self-concept. When our efforts to improve our competency results and success, we experience happiness, joy, and pride. Negative outcomes on the other hand, can bring anxiety, shame, and sadness.
While we may experience different levels of competence motivations across our lifespan, typically competence motivations begin at birth with our desire to explore and control our environment. As we reach adulthood, our competence motivations and standards grow more challenging and complex as they interact with other motivational concerns, e.g., self-preservation. As we reach late adulthood, typically, our competence motivations are challenged by declines in our skills and abilities, but even more typically by the subtle pressures of society to exclude and marginalize older workers.
Nevertheless, throughout our lifetimes competence motivation remains an important contributor to our overall behavior and well-being. While competence motivation can be seen in all cultures, it may be expressed and manifested differently depending on the culture. Competence is generally understood to be a basic psychological need that has a significant impact on our behavior, regardless of age or culture (Elliott & Dweck, 2005).
Competence Acquisition and Development
Competency development can be seen as an ongoing process of acquiring and integrating the knowledge, skills, and demonstrated abilities (KSA’s) needed to perform successfully in one or more of the life domains at or above the journey man-level. When these KSA’s are further honed through practice and experience to high level of mastery in one or more domains, we can become experts in that area, e.g., Subject Matter Experts (SMA’s).
As Sternberg (2005) points out, expertise is achieved by “… purposeful engagement involving direct instruction, active participation, role modeling, and reward” (p. 17). The author sees the process of advancing toward KSA’s into competencies, and competencies into expertise as including five elements:
• metacognition (planning/evaluation);
• learning (explicit/implicit);
• thinking (critical/creative);
• knowledge (declarative/procedural); and,
• motivation (intrinsic/extrinsic).
However, he points out that development of competencies or expertise in one domain or area does not necessarily provide competencies or expertise in another area, although in some cases there is some degree of transfer.
The overall process of acquiring important competencies needed for career advancement and success is labor intensive and therefore time-consuming. Therefore, it is all the more important that programs preparing management professionals in a particular field focus on competency acquisition and not simply the acquisition of knowledge. Most academic institutions focus on the acquisition of declarative knowledge, i.e., facts, principles, concepts. However, achieving competence requires more than simply “knowing about” an area of management or other topic. Of equal, and some would argue even greater, importance is “knowing how” (procedural knowledge), and further, that “knowing how” (knowledge and skills) has been validated in a way that demonstrates ability – KSA= Competency.
Also highly important since the process is so labor intensive, is that programs of study and preparation emphasize the acquisition not simply of any competencies that might possibly relate to the field, but those competencies that have been validated and ranked by senior (e.g. successful) practitioners as being most contributory to career success in that field.
Ackoff, R. L. (1989). From data to wisdom. Journal of Applied Systems Analysis, 16, 3-9.
Bellinger, G., Castro, D., & Mills, A. (2004). Data, information, knowledge, and wisdom. In Systems thinking. Retrieved January 15, 2010, from http://www.systems-thinking.org/dikw/dikw.htm
Elliot, A. J., & Dweck, C. S. (2007). Handbook of competence and motivation. Guilford Press.
Morris, W. (. (1981). The American heritage dictionary of the English language. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton-Mifflin Company.
Schunk, D. H., & Pajares, F. (2005). Competence perceptions and academic functioning. In A. J. Elliott & C. S. Dweck (Eds.), Handbook of competence and motivation (pp. 85-104). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Connors, T. D. (2015, September 1). “Soaring” and “seizing,” the roots of competency. In Transformational organizations. Retrieved from NPO Crossroads: http://www.npocrossroads.com/soaring-and-seizing-the-roots-of-competency/
Effectiveness is one of the three overarching management domains that define and characterize self-renewing organizations, the others including Efficiency and Transformational Organization. An effective organization, regardless of the sector in which it operates, has a valid purpose that is continually adjusted to its surroundings and context as it focuses on how to accomplish its public service, customer-focused mission.
Effective philanthropic-charitable organizations share three broad leadership and management characteristics, including:
• Valid purposes that that serve and satisfy clients, customers, and stakeholders, and that are continually adjusted to and aligned with the organization’s surroundings, context and operating environment. Effective C-P/NP organizations know they are needed—and they know why. They know their public purpose is valid, and they continually adjust it, tune it to environmental conditions to achieve business results (Connors, 1997)
• Business results and mission fulfillment outcomes are the focus for program planning, process and process improvement activities, implementation and evaluation efforts directed at accomplishing its public service purpose through client-driven quality and operational performance excellence.
• Governance leaders are focused on performance excellence, adaptability to the organization’s operating environment, and sustainable mission accomplishment.
The Charitable-Philanthropic Organization Self-Renewing Management Model (C-POSRM) Study (Connors, 2013) reported that Effective charitable organizations:
Know that they serve valid public purposes (Mission and Vision); know they are needed (Community Outreach, Operating Environment); and, they
Know why (Customer/Client-Focused Outcomes, Satisfaction, and Engagement).
Further, effective charitable-philanthropic organizations monitor their operating environment (Operations Focus; Public Relations), and stand ready to adjust their purpose or operations (Strategic Planning, Development, Deployment; Business Results; Leadership and Governance Outcomes; Decision-Making Methods) to ensure they are in tune with ever-changing operational environmental conditions (Assessment and Evaluation Methods; Marketing). Collectively, these actions and activities result in a strategy to achieve better performance and results (Program Implementation, Planning, Evaluation; Business Service/Process, and Workforce-Focused Outcomes; Services, Product and Process Outcomes; Financial and Market Outcomes).
Leadership and Management Practices Fostering Effectiveness
Effective voluntary organizations understand the value of the following leadership and management practices and emphasize their contributions to improved and sustained organization performance and results.
• Customer Focus and Satisfaction as the foundation for setting priorities and focusing improvement activities. Results and trends in this area offer a means to determine the appropriate direction for improvement activities and initiatives. Effective organizations listen to and learn from their customers on a continuous basis, then use that intelligence to determine their current and near-term requirements and expectations.
• Strategic planning is used to define and accomplish their customer-focused mission. Strategic planning to strengthen their customer-related, operational, and financial performance, to improve customer satisfaction. Planning is essential to help organization leaders use customer and operational requirements as inputs to setting strategic directions. Strategic planning guides ongoing decision-making, resource allocation, and organization-wide management.
• Business Results as the focus for all processes and process improvement activities to assess its progress towards superior value of its offerings as viewed by customers and the marketplace, and towards superior organization performance reflected in productivity and effectiveness.
Executives Report Most Valuable Management Actions and Activities
C-PO executives reported the management actions and activities most valuable to them in achieving Effectiveness include such essential elements needed to achieve Effectiveness as:
• Fulfilling the purpose of the organization;
• Proactively serving and satisfying clients and customers;
• Highly focused program planning, implementation and evaluation; and,
• Governance leaders who understand the organization’s operational environment and what must be done to establish and maintain sustainability within that environment – and do so.
Several survey respondents also suggested that an effective C-PO would also have “strong ethics and accountability processes,” “vision and purpose,” “outcome measurement processes,” and, “…a sense of pride.” Another respondent added “funder requirements are really what we have to follow, regardless of our own (or community) ideas of what is effective. Unfortunately, the funders often have an incomplete or even warped idea of what is really effective.”
One Size Does Not Fit All: Effectiveness
C-PO executives rank various management actions and activities differently in their perceived ability to contribute to organizational effectiveness depending on such variables as the size and type of the organization, or the experience of the responding executive. For example, community-based charities, those with the fewest staff members and available resources for management support, ranked as their top five effectiveness components: mission and vision, community outreach, customer engagement, customer satisfaction, and customer-focused outcomes.
Smaller charities, those operating with 10-50 employees, ranked as their top five effectiveness components: mission and vision, customer satisfaction, customer engagement, program implementation, and program planning.
Larger charities, those with more than 50 employees, ranked as their top five effectiveness components: customer-focused outcomes as the strongest component of effectiveness. This was followed by program implementation, mission and vision, program evaluation, and assessment and evaluation methods.
Regardless of their experience, charitable executives concurred that a focus on the organization’s mission and vision was the most important contributor to organizational effectiveness.
Note: Adapted in part and with permission from: Connors, T. D. (1997). The self-renewing organization. In T. D. Connors (Ed.), The nonprofit handbook: Management (2nd ed.) (pp. 2-29). New York: John Wiley & Sons. Connors, T. D. (2001). The self-renewing organization. In J. M. Greenfield (Ed.), The nonprofit handbook: Fund raising (3rd ed.) (pp. 1113-1140). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. Connors, T. D. (2001). The self-renewing organization. In T. D. Connors (Ed.), The nonprofit handbook: Management (3rd edition) (pp. 3-45). New York: John Wiley & Sons. Connors, T. D. (May 2013). Towards a theory of self-renewed excellence for charitable-philanthropic organizations, Public Service Leadership, Capella University. DAI-A 74/11(E), p. 276. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com//docview/1427359144
Quo Vadis Voluntary Sector: Nurturing the capacity and developing the change leaders needed to sustain America’s Quality of Life
The growing importance of:
Self-renewing models that align mission and purpose within ever-changing operating environments. Capacity-building focused on mission readiness and public purpose fulfillment. Change Leadership reflecting Purpose, Environment and Person (PEP). Competency-focused workforce professional preparation, development and training.
America’s future quality of life will depend in large part on the ability of its more than one million charitable-philanthropic-nonprofit organizations to collectively provide a myriad of human services ranging from arts and education, to health, advocacy and social services.
Sustaining our national quality of life in the face of expanding needs and dwindling resources will require significant improvements by our voluntary organizations in mission fulfillment, performance, productivity, and human services delivery. These voluntary organizations must deliver a vast range of human services in the face of ever-changing operating environments, compounded by growing demands for the social services needed to sustain our nation’s overall quality of life, and further complicated by growing calls for improved Effectiveness, Efficiency, Transparency and Accountability.
Achieving improvements in overall effectiveness and efficiency resulting in substantially improved performance, results and outcomes will be among the most pressing challenges facing C-P/NP’s as transformational organizations. America’s voluntary sector faces numerous challenges, but when considering the future, they can be seen broadly as including:
New self-renewing models and methods.
Embracing change that aligns them with their operating environments and fulfills their expanding public service missions – is a key to achieving and sustaining Effectiveness, Efficiency and Transformed Organizations.
Capacity-building resulting mission readiness and public purpose fulfillment.
Linking capacity-building to improved mission and public purpose fulfillment.
Change Leadership with PEP.
Broadening the change leadership construct and model from its current focus on the Person, to include consideration of Purpose and Environment (PEP). Change leadership should be based on a variable mix of actions and traits needed by successful leaders such as Personal attributes and behaviors, but also on two other major factors, including: the nature of the Change (dimensions and complexities needed to advance the organization toward mission fulfillment), and the Environment/Situation (the organizational setting, environment and circumstances).
Workforce Professional Preparation, Development and Training.
Greatly expanded management education and training opportunities are needed for the voluntary sector workforce. Moreover, these opportunities should be framed and focused on professional education, training and development that helps practitioners acquire those competencies identified as most useful and contributory to achieving – and sustaining – results and performance improvements reflecting gains in Effectiveness, Efficiency and Transformation – all of which will be required in ever greater measure to meet emerging national Quality of Life needs.
Transformational organizations, Effectiveness and Efficiency represent the three overarching management domains of the Self-Renewing Management Model.
Charitable-philanthropic organizations seeking to achieve sustainable mission fulfillment and operations need a structure, culture and internal operating environment with the ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions, to transition to new states – to evolve.
Achieving and sustaining a highly Effective charitable or philanthropic organization, one that is also Efficient in its use of available resources, requires the organization to have the ability to evolve and adapt to ever-changing external environmental conditions, even as it encourages all its members to achieve their full potentials. Change is often disruptive – and can be threatening to those involved. Therefore, the internal environment needed to cope with a constantly changing external environment is one that offers self-fulfillment options and a workplace where it is safe to change (transformational). Self-renewing organizations establish and maintain a transformational organizational environment within and through leadership and human resource development and management (Connors, 1997, 2001). Transformational organizations adapt themselves to changing environmental conditions, constantly transitioning to new states, turning as necessary, in new directions. In short, transformational organizations manage change effectively by reinventing themselves – they stay New.
Profile of a Transformational Organization
A charitable-philanthropic organization that has achieved a transformational internal operating environment, is one in which its senior leaders:
• are focused on improved organizational effectiveness,
• serve as role models for values, initiative, and commitment; and,
• are involved in organizational performance improvement initiatives.
Further, its leaders have put into place systems that foster performance, individual development, and organizational learning, including the identification of stakeholders who serve as a major focus for vision and mission fulfillment.
A transformational organization is one in which education and training are emphasized as a means to improve workforce capabilities and performance, even as the human resource focus supports and encourages staff and volunteers to achieve their full potentials.
Transformational organizations emphasize the importance of staff and volunteers realizing their full potential. They have put into place work and services delivery processes that support client/customer and performance objectives. Organizational and work unit performance is measured and evaluated, to improve efficiency and effectiveness, and as a basis to measure, evaluate and reward staff and volunteers.
Characteristics of a Transformational Organization
Transformational organizations are characterized by the following characteristics as ranked by senior NPO executives during a major research study (Connors, 2013):
• Leadership is focused on improved organizational effectiveness.
• Senior leaders serve as role models for values, initiative, and commitment.
• Senior leaders are involved in organizational performance improvement initiatives.
• Leadership system fosters performance, individual development, and organizational learning.
• Education and training are emphasized to improve workforce capabilities and performance.
• Human resource focus supports and encourages staff and volunteers toward their full potentials.
• Work processes support client/customer and performance objectives.
• Staff and volunteer performance is measured, evaluated, and rewarded.
• Stakeholders are identified and serve as focus for vision and mission fulfillment.
• Organizational and work unit performance is measured and evaluated.
Establishing and Sustaining a Transformative Organization
Philanthropic executives rank Leadership, focused on operationalizing the organization’s core values as effectively as possible, as among the strongest contributors to establishing and sustaining a transformational internal environment.
The Charitable-Philanthropic Organization Self-Renewing Management Model (C-POSRM) Study (Connors,2013) found that three essential elements were needed to achieve a transformational organization, including:
1. Leadership and governance volunteers who use organizational core values as the basis for their decisions which are focused on achieving and sustaining organizational effectiveness and efficiency.
2. Governance leaders establishing and maintaining an ethical internal environment – based on core values – in which all members of the workforce (staff, volunteers, and governance leaders) are meaningfully engaged in helping the organization to fulfill its societal responsibilities.
3. Leadership focused on effective volunteer resource management, including job design linked to strategic planning and mission fulfillment (purpose).
The list below includes the rankings of management actions/activities most contributory to creating and sustaining a transformational internal environment. The list and its rankings was created by the responses of over 350 senior executives of voluntary organizations, and were among the findings of the Charitable-Philanthropic Organization Self-Renewing Management Model (C-POSRM) Study (Connors, 2013). Leadership is the strongest characteristic of philanthropic organizations with what their executives characterize as optimal internal environments.
2. Organizational Core Values
3. Senior Leadership Efficacy
4. Volunteer Resource Management
5. Societal responsibilities
6. Job design, including volunteer positions where applicable
7. Board Development
9. Workforce Engagement
10. Ethics and Ethical Behavior
11. Workforce Climate/Environment
12. Workforce Capability/Capacity/ Development
13. Workforce Focus
14. Member/Constituent Development
15. Committee Development
16. Workforce Recognition/Rewards
17. Risk Management
18. Human Resource Development
19. Human Resource Management
20. Diversity Awareness
Leadership in such organizations is focused on improving organizational effectiveness, and in improving the organization’s overall performance. Further, its senior leaders serve as role models for values, initiative, and commitment. Human resource development is highly valued as a means to improve professional skills, capabilities, and performance, even as it encourages all members of the organization to achieve their full potentials.
In descending, but closely ranked order, respondents strongly valued other management actions and activities, including: volunteer resource management; societal responsibilities; job design; board development and governance; and workforce engagement. Based on rankings of management actions and activities and their value in establishing a transformational internal environment, heavy focus and importance was given to those actions involving and affecting the organization’s workforce, including: engagement and ethical behavior, climate and environment, capability and capacity development, recognition and rewards, diversity awareness, and an overall priority for the workforce and its best interests.
Note: Adapted in part and with permission from:
Connors, T. D. (1997). The self-renewing organization. In T. D. Connors (Ed.), The nonprofit handbook: Management (2nd ed.) (pp. 2-29). New York: John Wiley & Sons. Connors, T. D. (2001). The self-renewing organization. In J. M. Greenfield (Ed.), The nonprofit handbook: Fund raising (3rd ed.) (pp. 1113-1140). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. Connors, T. D. (2001). The self-renewing organization. In T. D. Connors (Ed.), The nonprofit handbook: Management (3rd edition) (pp. 3-45). New York: John Wiley & Sons. Connors, T. D. (May 2013). Towards a theory of self-renewed excellence for charitable-philanthropic organizations, Public Service Leadership, Capella University. DAI-A 74/11(E), p. 276. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com//docview/1427359144
Efficient Voluntary Organizations: economical with reduced waste of time, energy, and materials
Overall, Efficient charitable organizations operate economically, with reduced waste of time, energy, and materials (at least in comparison with their competition). Increasingly, they use a variety of tools to improve business processes, including:
• Information and analysis techniques and systems analysis approaches to minimize waste, streamline their operations, and to make economical use of all resources (Connors, 1997, 2001).
• Processes, products, and services reassessment to optimize resource investments (money, time, and personnel) to achieve improved customer service and satisfaction levels.
• Economic performance and resource conservation emphasis by reducing wasted time, energy, and materials.
• Applicable process improvement and management information/data collection and analysis techniques to design and improve its customer/client services and service delivery systems; and,
• Process performance systems maintenance and operation to ensure they are performing according to their design.
Senior executives of charitable organizations understand and highly value the management benefits of using process improvement and management techniques to design and improve customer/client services and service delivery systems. They also value approaches that reduce wasted time, energy, and materials. Finally, C-P/NP executives strongly support and recommend maintaining process monitoring systems to ensure they are performing according to their design and the value of using information and analysis techniques and approaches to reduce waste (Connors, 2013).
Defining Efficient Voluntary Organizations
Charitable executives identified and ranked the following as characteristics they would include in any definition of organizational efficiency, including:
• Uses process improvement and management techniques to design and improve its customer/client services and service delivery systems.
• Emphasizes reducing wasted time, energy and materials.
• Maintains process performance systems to ensure they are performing according to their design.
• Uses information and analysis techniques and approaches to reduce waste.
• Emphasizes economic performance.
Next: Secrets to Achieving Voluntary Organization Efficiency
Connors, T. D. (2015, July 31). Efficient voluntary organizations: Economical with reduced waste of time, energy, and materials. In Efficient voluntary organizations: NPO crossroads. Retrieved from BelleAire Press, LLC: http://www.npocrossroads.com/category/efficiency/efficient-organizations/