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Monday, 19 February 2018

Revisiting Leadership Development in the Context of McKinseys’ 2014 Expose - and doing so from the Perspective of Nonprofit Organisations

In January 2014, an article appeared in the McKinsey Quarterly entitled “Why leadership-development programs fail.” They identified a number of shortcomings in current programs, including:
  • the fact that many of these programs overlook context by working on the invalid assumption that one size fits all;
  • the fact that reflection is decoupled from real work, underpinning the absence of real-life application of acquired theoretical knowledge
  • the fact that the need to change mind-sets which requires an associated change in behaviours is often overlooked, and finally
  • the fact that such programs tend to overlook the Return-on-Investment aspect associated with the cost of such programs.
Alternatives do exist utilising an Action Learning framework. Action Learning as an approach for driving performance was originally proposed by Professor Reg Revans in the 1940s and over the years has led to significant international successes, especially in the NFP sector where the central focus on mission and values enables participants to develop relevant work-based solutions in their own organisations, whilst furthering their own personal and professional development. By doing so, the Action Learning process successfully addresses the shortcomings that McKinsey and Co has identified in existing leadership development programs.
In 2014, OPTIMUM NFP participated in the development of the Not-for-Profit Leadership Survey which identified that 52% of respondent NFP CEO’s believed that whilst their management teams had strong technical capabilities, they lacked the leadership skills needed for the future. The survey suggested that traditionally, managers were promoted or appointed into their roles for their technical or professional skills and they learnt to manage a team through trial and error. As suggested in the report, the high costs of staff turnover and the need to develop staff to achieve organisational goals meant that managers needed to have highly developed leadership skills more so than technical skills.
Emotional Intelligence, or EI as it is usually referred to, is very often seen as a necessity in leadership roles, especially when leaders are focusing on the implementation of change programs, where appropriate engagement with all staff is not only necessary, but also fundamental to the success of the change program. EI has many facets including emotional self-awareness, emotional awareness of others, emotional self-management and control, emotional management of others, emotional reasoning, and expression.
Some authors suggest EI cannot be taught. Managers either have this skill or they don’t. Others suggest that whilst an innate leaning towards effective EI traits is prevalent amongst successful leaders, exposure to appropriate leadership and personnel development can either improve existing EI capabilities or at least expose potential leaders to a wide range of EI related attributes where, in the right environment, and with the right mentoring, can, over time, refine EI type skills.
In a potentially correlated issue, the Survey also found that 52% of respondents believed that their NFP’s inability to adapt to change was a risk to the sustainability of their organisation. A broader issue appeared to be the extent to which these organisations were change ready from a cultural perspective as well as from a technical preparedness level. In this regard the challenge for leaders is to understand what stage their organisation is at with regards its readiness to react to, and absorb change, identify the gaps, and then look to address them with a myriad of suitable approaches before change is implemented. Of course when we talk organisational culture, be it for change readiness purposes or for general performance purposes, a leader’s EI becomes of paramount importance, given the role that the leader plays in both these issues.
Seeing the above issues in context, it becomes clear that leadership development training may become critical in addressing the challenging issues that face this sector into the future. Whilst historical issues and challenges do exist with leadership development programs, approaches that incorporate Action Learning, are providing worthwhile benefits, and evidence does point to these addressing the shortcomings identified in the McKinsey article.
Additionally, Australian non-profits are experiencing a huge amount of change, brought about by a combination of internal organisational issues as well as a disproportionate amount of external environmental challenges. The former resulting directly from employees wanting more from their organisations in a climate of uncertainty around both employment and service delivery, whilst the latter resulting directly from a changing political landscape that is failing to underpin service delivery stability, let alone expansion, and a financial imperative that sees government policy more mindful of perceived budgetary imperatives than community well-being. The political focus on predominant economy-wide cost-reduction, without a corresponding increased focus on economy-wide revenue-generation, will continue to challenge activities within the non-profit sector.
So in this challenging context, what skills and expertise is required by managers of non-profit organisations into the future and to what extent does a skills gap currently exists?
A timeline of management developments over the last 50 years or so reflects a dual focus on organisational strategy as well as organisational leadership. This was evident in the works of Kanter, Porter, Peters & Waterman, Greenleaf, Covey, Hammer, Kaplan & Norton and many more. As the understanding of managing change came more and more to the fore, a focus on the individual in organisations as distinct to the organisational processes themselves became more prevalent. Management research and the associated academic research journals have become increasingly awash with such an emphasis, although the success of change management continues to elude many organisations.
The non-profit sector is not immune to these environmental events. Experiences in the commercial sector tends to mirror, or at least influence, events in the management of non-profit organisations, or at the very least there is a strong association which NFP leaders need to be cognisant of in their own deliberations.
So what are the attributes that are needed of leaders in the non-profit sector into the future? Based on my own Doctoral research and further informed through my consulting work with over 50 nonprofit organisations, I suggest that the sought-after attributes fall into two broad categories which I have labelled as ‘Thinking’ on the one hand and ‘Relationships’ on the other. Seems overly simplistic, but let me explain further.
Thinking involves lateral and medial thinking. The former is closely aligned to strategic thinking and is characterised by how well the leader can see the broader picture and incorporate ideas from a wide range of sources, not just what is in front of them at a particular point in time. In order to be effective at this type of thinking, leaders need very broad experience, not just in their own organisation or their own industry, but be able to incorporate broader experience to add value to the current challenge. 
Medial thinking focuses attention on the detailed issues necessary to bring scope and context to lateral thinking. Effectively it becomes the ‘How to?” of the “What if?” Here the leaders are focused on detail and the ability to actually deliver ideas and concepts to a point where their organisation can in fact function and respond to organisational and environmental challenges.
Related to ‘Thinking’ is the attribute of ‘Relationships’. I stress that this is related and not stand-alone. Without the ability to relate to a wide range of organisational stakeholders, whose complexities are well documented in the non-profit sector, ‘Thinking’ becomes redundant, at both levels. The key characteristics of ‘Relationships’ involve:
  • the ability to effectively communicate at all levels of the organisation as well as to all stakeholders, 
  • the ability to transcend limiting organisational structures where necessary and build effective in-house teams to resolve problems and challenges
  • the ability to harness individual and collective organisational skills to achieve strategic and operational outcomes
  • the ability to strengthen organisational capacity and individual capability
Consider your own organisation in the context of the above and where your leaders sit in this paradigm of Thinking and Relationships. What happens within your organisation to ensure these attributes exist and are being reinforced for both current and future leaders? How is learning accommodated for in this environmental context?
In the above context, there is a clear linkage between the attributes of Action Learning and the need to fill nonprofit organisational skills gaps, including the development of current and future leaders. As an experiential process of engagement Action Learning is premised on the following key characteristics:
  1. Being evidence based and grounded in a proven theoretical practice based discipline;
  2. A way of thinking about how one learns
  3. Driven by organisational and business needs
  4. Meeting the needs of the individual and the organisation
  5. Designed for tackling current problems
  6. Being action focused, and
  7. Having a learning focus at individual, team and organisational levels.
OPTIMUM NFP runs numerous programs that support organisational learning and skills development across all levels of leadership and management, as well as programs that support organisational change. Further details can be obtained at the OPTIMUM NFP web site at Alternatively, bespoke programs that respond directly to the unique requirements of your own organisation have also been developed and further information on these can be obtained by contacting David Rosenbaum at or by ringing 0411-744-911
Developing leaders, expanding skills and coping with organisational change. These are interrelated activities and all fundamental to your organisation's future sustainability. Act now.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Organisations don't change on their own - People must change before the organisation does

Of all the issues discussed by many in the Australian nonprofit sector, is the common-held view that the external environment within which you operate is an ever-changing landscape. These external pressures are derived from many sources and the work that I do in the strategic planning and strategic thinking space with many such organisations, highlights fundamental issues which must be taken into consideration when seeking to ensure the ongoing sustainability of your nonprofit organisation.

These pressures are originating from numerous sources, and when they hit, as they invariably will, they are not mutually exclusive, but rather are somewhat interrelated, suggesting no single cause and effect relationship. They stem from economic, political, social and technology trends, all of which are continuing to challenge your staff, your boards and therefore your business models. 

Staff knowledge that has remained static over any number of years will be detrimental to your organisation. Boards that are not keeping abreast of market risks and opportunities will be a drag on your organisation. Business models that worked and delivered outcomes 5 years ago, may not be relevant as you move forward for the next five years. This points to 'Change' and those nonprofits that can successfully manage change in a dynamic environment framework, and appreciate that it is not a static but rather a constant process, will best ensure their own sustainability.

My own research through my recently completed PhD was entitled "The enduring challenge of change management - new perspectives from nonprofit healthcare practice" identified a number of processes and initiatives that support successful change management in this sector. The findings from this research have now been embodied in an OPTIMUM NFP service offering entitled the CARC Program(Cultural Assessment for Readiness to Change). The Program addresses not only the extent to which your nonprofit is in fact ready for change, but also identifies the key factors associated with its ability to maintain an environment of constant change.

The CARC Program is a flexible approach to understanding how staff within your nonprofit will react to initial and ongoing change. Its key characteristics are as follows:
  • An interview-based analysis that caters to all organisational sizes and settings
  • It is not a one-size-fits-all approach but rather it reflects your organisation's unique context, environment, people and requirements
  • Investment in the Program is based on the number of staff interviewed, and therefore caters to all organisational sizes
The following represents the 6 key steps in the CARC Program:
  1. Reach agreement of expectations and deliverables
  2. Undertake a Situational Analysis from within the organisation
  3. Create a Change-Success Gap Analysis
  4. Identify detailed list of remedial actions
  5. Undertake Executive-level discussions 
  6. Complete a detailed Change Readiness Report including a Change Action Plan
Contact David Rosenbaum of OPTIMUM NFP at or 0411-744-911 to further discuss this new initiative and how your nonprofit may benefit from its implementation

Thursday, 27 July 2017

The Enduring Challenge of Change Management - New Perspectives from Nonprofit Healthcare Practice

This is the title of my recently submitted PhD thesis. After 7 interesting and productive years, it has just been submitted to my supervisors for final review at Macquarie University Faculty of Business and Economics. I have been living and breathing this activity throughout this period, not just for the purposes of my thesis but also through its application in my consulting activities. Merging the PhD research activities with my consulting activities has also been challenging, but again, very professionally and personally rewarding.

The thesis includes 4 published articles in peer reviewed journals as well as one article that was only recently submitted for review. Additionally it was the product of 6 international and domestic conferences. Many of the articles appear on my OPTIMUM NFP website. These articles (some of which are not yet publicly available as they are still going through the review and/or publication process) form relevant chapters in m,y submission and the details appear as follows:

  • "Planned organisational change management - forward to the past" which has been accepted for publication in July 2017 in the Journal of Organizational Change Management

  • "Applying grounded theory to investigating change management in the nonprofit sector" which was published in 2016 in Sage Open
  • "A longitudinal qualitative case study of change in nonprofits: Suggesting a new approach to the management of change" which was published in June 2016 in the Journal of Management & Organisation
  • "Action Learning intervention as a change management strategy in the Disability Services sector - A case study" which was published in the Action learning Action Research Journal in 2013
  • "The role of reflection in planned organizational change" which was submitted to the Journal of General Management in July 2017 and is currently being assessed

Given this research has been an integral part of my consulting activities over this period, I would be keen to discuss the findings from this research with those of you who have a need to review and consider how you deal with change in your own organisations.

Contact David Rosenbaum of OPTIMUM NFP at of 0411-744-911 for a no-obligation discussion about your nonprofit's circumstances and requirements in this area.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Is Your Organisation Ready to Implement Change

Introducing C.A.R.C.

Your future survival will depend largely on your organisations ability to adapt & change in evolving markets.

OPTIMUM NFP announces the launch of the C.A.R.C.Initiative (Cultural Assessment for Readiness to Change).
This initiative has resulted from PhD research undertaken by David Rosenbaum which represents the latest research undertaken on change management in the Australian Nonprofit sector. David has presented his research and findings at key international conferences in Italy, the United States and the United Kingdom and is scheduled to present further aspects of the findings here in Australia and in the Netherlands in 2017.
What was the research about?
  • It recognised the uniqueness of the NFP sector and its people;
  • It identified the impact that such uniqueness had on sustainable change management;
  • It researched change from the perspective of people experiencing and managing it.
Why is this research important?
  • Australian nonprofit organisations are currently facing many challenges that question their very existence, in the provision of disability services, aged care services,employment services, community services, health, education, etc.;
  • Organisational survival will be dependent on the ability to change service delivery models, structures, and/or business models. The key to success is to realise that organisations do not change, rather, people within them change. So unless your people are ready for change, in every sense of the process, sustainable change will not be guaranteed, irrespective of the quality of your change plans;
  • Change processes can be costly, therefore failure will cost your organisation at a time when you can least afford it.
  • The application of the findings of this research will ensure that people within your nonprofit can cope with change, thereby minimising costly failure.
How flexible is the C.A.R.C.?
  • As an interview-based analysis it caters for all organisational sizes and settings
  • In the absence of a one-size-fits-all approach, which is characteristic of many organisation-culture assessments, the C.A.R.C. is built around your organisation’s unique context, environment, people and requirements.
  • Investment is based on number of staff interviewed, and therefore caters to all organizational sizes. 
The following represents the 6 key steps in the C.A.R.C. process:
  1. Reach agreement of expectations and deliverables
  2. Undertake a situational analysis from within the organisation
  3. Create a Change-Success gap analysis
  4. Identify detailed list of remedial actions
  5. Undertake executive-level discussions
  6. Complete a detailed Change Readiness Report including Change Action Plan

Contact David Rosenbaum of OPTIMUM NFP at or 0411-744-911 to further discuss this new initiative and how your organisation may benefit from its implementation. 

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Adani Carmichael Coal Mine Queensland

As a nation goes, how foolish is our government and our bureaucrats?

From a pure governance perspective, any reputable Australian business person, and risk aware financial institutions, would steer clear of an investment in the Adani Carmichael Coal Mine, and it has very little do to with climate change, although from that perspective, this is the craziest undertaking we currently have in this country.

I am looking at this purely from a governance and related risk perspective. The key issues are quite simple, namely:

  1. From a deal-making perspective, Adani has a questionable history in its home country
  2. Those that are at the helm of Adani, have themselves, a questionable reputation in governance execution in their home country
  3. The controlling entity is likely to be domiciled in an offshore tax haven that will be inaccessible to Australian regulatory authorities should there be a need to call upon that entity to rectify any breaches associated with the one development or functions, including those that may breach environmental conditions
  4. From a financial perspective, the mine does not appear to stack up. some of the largest and reputable banks in the world have pulled out of the deal, questioning the very fundamentals of financial governance
So here we have an investment proposal that does not stack up financially and has very questionable governance structures, and yet, the Australian government is willing to throw $1 billion of taxpayer funds into the venture, partnering with unknown invisibles, given the offshore structures. All this whilst the Queensland government wants to promise jobs into the future which will probably never actually arise, assuming the mine actually begins any operations. Whilst some jobs will be created during the apparent construction phase, it is well known that the mining sector is capital intensive, not labour intensive.

The other aspect to this of course is that India itself is seeking to expand renewable energy as an alternative to coal, based on their own view as to the long-term sustainability of fossil fuels in the medium to long-term. 

The simple facts of this debacle are these:
  1. Adani will not be the economic saviour of Australia. Sustainable jobs will not be created in Qld or anywhere else resulting from this development
  2. The Carmichael Coal Mine will jeopardise existing wealth-creating activities associated with the Great Barrier Reef, whose tourism opportunities have as yet, not been fully exploited
  3. Australian taxpayers will see little return for their $1 billion investment, socially or economically. 

It would appear that other than coal producers, Tony Abbott and certain members of the Coalition government are the only ones currently in the world who are of the mistaken belief that coal is the future. 

No, in fact, coal is not only the past, but actually jeopardises the future for our children, our grandchildren and generations to come.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

2016 comes to a close - Summing up the nonprofit sector and what we can look forward to from OPTIMUM NFP in 2017.

For all of you involved in the nonprofit sector, 2016 has been a very challenging year, and every indication is that 2017 will probably be more of the same.

Activity in the political and economic sphere has seen the sector coming to grips with what it all means for their own organisation. 
  • The ongoing roll-out of the NDIS has seen a  myriad of responses, ranging from thoughts of risk and downside through to opportunity and expansion, whilst responding to the financial sustainability challenges associated with a previous supply-driven model moving to a generational-change demand-driven model;
  • The ongoing children abuse Royal Commission has seen many organisations tighten their risk frameworks to ensure such obscene activities are not part of their culture, and for those caught up in the findings, an in-depth look into their own organisational mirrors in order to introduce fundamental change;
  • The strengthening of the ACNC has seen a degree of confidence introduced into the sector with regards a range of  compliance issues;
  • Changes to Australian Disability Employment frameworks has seen many in this aspect of the sector revise their current business models, in line with similar challenges in the disability services sector;
  • Ongoing reforms to residential aged care has seen organisations in this sector review their own business models to address long-term sustainability challenges;
  • An industry-wide focus on governance within the sector from wide-ranging sources that have resulted in many organisations in this sector carefully looking at what they currently do as compared to what they perhaps should be doing, especially with regards risk management, financial management, and board structure and development.
OPTIMUM NFP has been heavily involved in many of these nonprofit issues and over the 2016 period has further involved itself with many such organisations undertaking projects such as:
  • Transitioning Incorporated Associations to Companies Limited by Guarantee;
  • Organisation-wide strategic planning activities using a bottom-up approach to develop and launch strategic plans
  • Mentoring executive team members;
  • In-house board governance workshops;
  • Change management planning;
  • Structuring boards with new non-executive directors
  • Conducting public Action Learning Question Programs
  • Delivering 4 post-graduate units at the Australian Institute of Management MBA course, including 1 in Strategic Organisational Change and 3 in Managing Financial Resources
2017 will continue the challenges for the nonprofit sector, as well as bringing new ones, to which the sector will once again be challenged to consider innovative ways of moving forward. The confused nature of public policy will no doubt add to these challenges, in a very unhelpful fashion.

OPTIMUM NFP is looking to 2017 with a continued sense of anticipation and optimism, whilst also being realistic in recognising that many nonprofit organisations may face substantial risk if they fail to grasp and implement the governance and strategic planning frameworks that they must seriously consider.

During 2017, OPTIMUM NFP will be focused on the following activities:
  • David will be completing his PhD studies at Macquarie University. This has been a long but personally rewarding journey (commenced in late 2010). Currently there are three papers that have been published in international peer reviewed journals, whilst a fourth paper is currently under review. My fifth and final paper is currently being prepared for submission. The papers, by title, have included:
    • "Action Leanring Intervention as a Change Management Strategy in the Disability Services Sector - A Case Study", published in the Action Learning Action Research Journal
    • "A Longitudinal Qualitative Case Study of Change in Nonprofits", published in the Journal of Management & Organization
    • "Applying Grounded Theory to Investigating Change Management in the Nonprofit Sector", published in Sage Open
    • "Planned Organisational Change Management - Forward to the Past? An explorative literature review", currently being considered for possible publication in the Journal of Organizational Change Management
  • Applying the findings in the PhD research, OPTIMUM NFP will be launching a consulting service that seeks to ensure that nonprofit organisations can undertake an organisation specific change readiness analysis which will outline potential challenges within their organisation that can be addressed prior to changes being implemented, thereby increasing the likelihood of successful change outcomes. The service will be launched during the fist quarter of 2017 and is called the 'CARC' program - Culture Assessment for Readiness of Change, and uses the outcomes of the latest nonprofit specific research derived directly from David's PhD. Watch out for the launch announcement.
  • During 2017, OPTIMUM NFP in conjunction with Action Learning International, will launch a further public Action Learning Question Program, which has been critically acclaimed and continues to be supported by the Australian Institute of Management Business School. This will be further expanded as purpose-designed in-house programs for larger nonprofit organisations. Keep an eye out for the program dates.
  • In mid 2017, OPTIMUM NFP will leverage its success in executive team mentoring through the launch of its "Manager Development Groups" which utilise Action Learning as a key process in leadership development. Look out for the formal announcement of these.
OPTIMUM NFP will of course continue to focus on its strengths in delivering consulting input into Strategic Planning and Governance.

2016 has been a very busy year. 2017 is going to be an exciting year as OPTIMUM NFP continues to build on its skills and expertise in delivering new and innovative services that will continue to add value to nonprofit organisations, ensuring that the focus on organisational sustainability remains a key deliverable in all our consulting assingments.

I would like to thank my clients for allowing me to be part of their solutions during 2016 and I look forward to being able to adding further value to their organisations in 2017.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Healthy, Prosperous and Safe 2017.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Fundraising as a Strategic Responsibility - David Rosenbaum Presenting at the upcoming Blackbaud 'Outcomes Conference' - 30th November 2016

My strategic planning work with numerous NFP organisations always seeks to include the strategic importance of fundraising as both a board and an organisation-wide activity. Many NFPs tend to have DGR registration (Deductible Gift Recipient) but fail to use this asset as a strategic one, instead having it remain as a relative non-performing asset and merely accepting the odd, small donation either when it comes their way or to assist in the holding of small events that tend not to attract the sort of dollars that necessarily make it worthwhile.

One of the greatest challenges to the NFP sector, as we are being told, and as governments continue to stress, is long-term financial sustainability. From a financial perspective, such financial sustainability requires a strong and consistent efforts of ensuring that the assets that we hold rewording for us, and delivering at a rate that enables us to deliver our services in a wider context than purely on the assumption of ongoing government funding. The DGR registration is one of those assets which, in many NFPs, continues to liger without much focus.

Whilst OPTIMUM NFP is not a fundraising consultancy, my efforts focus in strategic planning for NFPs, ensure s that at the strategic level, NFP boards and their executive teams understand the importance of their DGRE status and how focusing on its use can add value to their financial sustainability plans, thereby delivering increasing value to the organisation over time.

Following my extensive work in this area, I am pleased to announce that I have been asked to be part of a one-day online conference being held on the 30th November and organised by Blackbaud Pacific Pty. Ltd., one of Australia's leading social-good technology companies, where I join a number of other industry experts to discuss the complexities of outcomes measurement to better understand what supporters and grant makers really want to know about your NFP.
 The virtual event features six presentations including:
  • Philanthropic Services Manager at Philanthropy Australia - Chris Wootton
  • NDS panel expert from OPTIMUM NFP - David Rosenbaum discussing the role that strategic planning plays in donor funding
  • Outcomes futurist Jayne Meyer Tucker, and
  • CEO of Cystic WA - Nigel Baker presenting his case study on outcomes measurement following a very successful funding round of $5.4 million.
The agenda has been structured as follows:
  • 10:00 a.m. - Why outcomes...and why now?
  • 11:00 a.m. - Strategic planning for outcomes
  • 12:00 p.m. - Intelligent funding - How to evaluate the impact of your giving
  • 1:00 p.m. - "This just isn't working" - An outstanding outcomes case study
  • 2:00 p.m. - What funders want
  • 3:00 p.m. - Demonstrating and communicating your impact
  • 4:00 p.m. - Innovations in outcomes measurement
Tickets cost $50 for the entire day and delegates can login for the sessions of interest or join them all. Visit the Blackbaud registration site at to register for the "Outcomes Online Conference".

Contact David Rosenbaum at  or on 0411-744-911 to arrange a no-obligations meeting to discuss your NFP strategic planning requirements and how OPTIMUM NFP can assist your organisation in developing a Strategic Plan that can support your future financial sustainability.

I look forward to hearing from you and to your attendance at the Conference