How Adaptable Are You?
Everyone relies on standard ways of doing things. From getting kids out the door to school or making the next big grant, we all need processes and systems that help us remember what’s next, what’s to be expected, and how to move forward. But sometimes things change, and we need to be able to change as well to accommodate a new short-term situation or a new long-term reality.
Here’s a personal example.
A few weeks ago I went to the hair salon for my standard cut and color (not that I’m going gray or anything). My tight schedule meant I couldn’t see my regular stylist. It was the morning of an international flight and my primary goal was speed and a hairstyle that would look presentable the next day despite an overnight flight. I wanted to arrive looking decent. I also didn’t want to miss my flight.
I told this to the stylist, and asked her if she could rush through the blow drying, put in some tight curls and send me off quickly.
She frowned, gave my head a once over and told me it would take 25 minutes to blow my hair dry. Despite my obvious dismay, she then proceeded to use her standard approach, systematically carving out small sections of hair, brushing and smoothing each section, then drying each delicately and thoroughly. Twenty-five minutes later I dashed out the door in a panic to make it to the airport on time.
Granted, my hair looked sleek and fabulous – a heck of a lot better than it ever looks after I dry it. But my goal was not to be fabulous. It was to be presentable in a speedy fashion. She was not capable, nor interested, in changing her methods to respond to the circumstances I presented. She thought her process was best, and wasn’t willing to adapt on the fly.
Funders also can assume their processes are best and fail to adapt quickly to needs presented by their grantees or communities. Instead, we should be ready to recognize and adapt when changes are warranted. Ask yourself:
How can you quickly get money out the door to help a grantee respond to a crisis situation, rather than requiring them to fill out a full proposal and wait for the next quarterly board meeting to approve a grant? Some foundations keep discretionary grant budgets or have expedited approval processes just for this purpose.
Are you looking under your own hood to identify what is not working, and quickly shedding it so that you can double down your resources on what’s most impactful?
Can you continuously scan your community to identify emerging trends, and then adapt your grantmaking strategies accordingly? (FYI, I’ll begiving talkson this at upcoming conferences for Exponent Philanthropy and the Iowa Council on Foundations).
Your immediate answer to these questions may be, “I’m not sure…” But that doesn’t mean you don’t have it in you to be more adaptive. Imagine a situation that would truly light a fire of adaptability under you. (For many funders, President Trump’s election caused a rapid adaptation into a new world of funding policy advocacy and organizing.) What would you need to do to adapt to that reality? And what can you do now to bring that adaptability into your current work?
© 2017 Kris Putnam-Walkerly. All rights reserved. Permission granted to excerpt or reprint with attribution.