Three simple truths to strengthen your organisation for change

Thinking for Change: part three

Previous blogs in this series:

Part 1: Playing with the rules 
Part 2: Finding inspiration

If you’ve been anywhere near a business blog in the last month or so, you’ve probably seen some predictions for the year ahead. While we can’t be sure which predictions will come true, one thing is certain: change will come. When it does, how will your organisation adapt? Will it respond to chaos in “firefighting mode”, or with intention and grace?

Instead of wasting energy trying to predict change, it can be more helpful to focus on the factors that never change.

In this post, I’ll share the three areas to focus on this year – and every year – to strengthen your organisation, ready for whatever the year has in store.  

How about you? What enduring truths have helped anchor your organisation in stormy times? Let us know in the comments!


It starts, and ends, with the Mission.

Every purpose-led organisation has a mission statement. A great mission statement describes your organisation’s enduring purpose. When well expressed, it can be the catchcry that drives everyone in your organisation forward. While it’s great to have your mission written on the wall, and in your annual report, it can do so much more when embedded into all of your programs.

An impact model (otherwise known as a logic model or theory of change) can help. It’s a roadmap to describe how your organisation delivers on your mission. It specifies:

  • The specific outcomes your program/s must deliver to realise the impact you hope to achieve.
  • The activities and outputs that will create your chosen outcomes
  • The inputs or resources you will use to deliver the activities and outputs.

The Compass: Your Guide to Social Impact Measurement from the Centre for Social Impact is a great place to start learning more.

If you don’t have a logic model, think about establishing one. As organisational changes happen, you can review and adapt the model – giving you a solid roadmap to guide your decisions as things change. Mapping your annual business plan to your impact model is a practical way to make reviewing, adapting, and measuring your progress easier.

This diagram shows how the most common areas within an annual plan, relate to the different stages in a simple impact model.

People are everything.

It goes without saying that for-purpose organisations put people ahead of profit. But how well does your organisation really understand the people you serve?

If you’re involved in service delivery, it’s likely that your organisation has strong empathy for the people you serve – and has been delivering services to similar people over a long period. The danger here is getting stuck in a service orientation where your culture assumes that your experience as a provider of service means you automatically understand the perspective of the people you serve.

The shift towards market-based models in areas like Aged Care and the NDIS demands that we take a step beyond service orientation, to a market orientation. This perspective:

  • Starts from the assumption that you, as a provider, are biased – and cannot understand the customer, donor or beneficiary’s perspective
  • Looks beyond your existing customer and stakeholder relationships to understand the whole market or landscape. Including only your existing customers and stakeholders in research is like the parable of the Six Blind Men and the Elephant. If you try to guess the shape of something by feeling just one part, you might be partly right, but also wholly wrong.

Embedding a market orientation requires a cultural shift, and takes time. A good place to start is by improving your market research practices.

A good research program will investigate the needs of your customers/donors/beneficiaries, as well as provide you with a solid assessment of the context in which your organisation operates, and the core competencies you bring to the table.

Armed with accurate human insight, you’ll be better prepared to respond to the unexpected in an informed way.

Evolution before Revolution.

You can’t achieve your mission if you’re always struggling for survival. The world does change quickly, and with this comes the need to find innovative ways to adapt your business model.

While it’s exciting to think about new products and services, setting up a new model takes a lot of resources. Provided there is proven, ongoing demand for your service, if you need to improve your viability it can be better – and easier – to aim for an evolution, not revolution.  

Start by gathering a detailed understanding of the way your current systems function. Making assumptions about what’s happening isn’t helpful, but it’s often exactly where we start – getting straight to brainstorming solutions without really understanding the issues at hand. Holding off on the brainstorming until you have all your facts will save you time and generate better solutions in the long run.

First: Gather Data. If you don’t know where you’re spending time and wasting resource, start measuring! At CBB our consultants use the time tracking software Harvest to measure the outputs we generate. We know how much time is being spent with clients, and how long it takes to keep up with professional development. We can measure the inputs used to deliver different kinds of projects, which helps us give clients realistic proposals.

As well as tracking inputs and outputs, it’s important to take time to observe your activities. This will help you put the data in context so you see both the trees, and the forest. Use your observations to diagnose the barriers against, and drivers towards better performance, and prioritise which to tackle first.

Need support to evolve your services, business model or marketing? CBB’s consultants can help guide your organisation through the process from gathering data, to generating ideas, and implementing changes.

Talk to us….

Meg Drechsler
Senior Marketing Consultant
Phone: 1300 763 505


Reflections from 2018 Governor’s Leadership Foundation Scholarship recipient

There are many benefits to working and volunteering in the not for profit sector. A feeling of working for a higher purpose, a calling, the satisfaction that comes with an alignment of values. Yet one thing NFPs often struggle with, compared to our more affluent corporate cousins, is finding sufficient funding to train and develop staff. Which is why I felt incredibly privileged and blessed to be a recipient of a half scholarship from CBB when I was accepted into the 2018 Governor’s Leadership Foundation Program.

It was with high hopes and expectations that I attended the opening retreat in February, and, 10 months later, emerged as graduate in November. Was it hard? Yes. Was it everything I had hoped for? Yes, and more. Would I recommend it? Absolutely.

The GLF is an immersive course, which operates on a deeply personal and professional level. We were guided by expert facilitators through an understanding of what adaptive leadership involves and given tools and models to explore and apply through a community action project which ran concurrently throughout the course. We were exposed to sectors and places in our state that most of us never thought we’d have access to – from a women’s prison to a tour of the Australian Submarine Corporation; from the RAAF base in Edinburgh to the Whyalla steelworks. And among the way we heard from leaders of these diverse organisations on their leadership challenges, lessons and opportunities.

This in itself is a mind broadening experience, but it is also attached to an intensive program of self-awareness and feedback which had a major impact on me this year. The GLF provides a comprehensive 360 feedback model, together with professional coaching and peer-to-peer coaching amongst the participants. This provides an opportunity to understand our blind spots, confirm our strengths, come to terms with our developmental areas and provide a fertile ground for growth. It certainly did that for me.

I’ve learned a lot about our state of South Australia this year. I understand that there is much to celebrate, and that there is a lot of good work and innovation which potentially does not get the attention it deserves in the mass media. But more than that, I learned a lot about myself.

The GLF has been permission-giving to shift away from continuously enhancing technical expertise and instead be more inward looking. This hasn’t been easy; I found some of the 360 feedback challenging. But over time, I learned to absorb and understand the lessons, and I found my behaviours changed as a result. I formed new habits; I became more sensitive to the perceptions and interpretations of others.  I read – a lot. I particularly recommend two books which supported my understanding of areas to change and then to be able to form new behaviours. Brene Brown’s “Daring Greatly” and Charles Duhigg “The Power of Habit”. Well worth a holiday read.

As a recipient of a scholarship, I also feel a responsibility to share this gift and opportunity with others. Throughout the year in my workplace, I shared my learning and experiences with the management team. We worked through some of the journal articles and readings provided, which generated a lot of lively debate and discussion. Whenever I have the opportunity, I talk about the experiences, tools, models or readings from the GLF so that there is a cross-pollination of these ideas that ripple into the workplace environment and the wider community.  This would not have been possible without CBB’s support, and for this I am sincerely grateful.

Astrid Kuivasaari – General Manager, Resources at The Uniting Church of SA

Takeaways from Better Boards conference 2018

The Better Boards conference 2018 was on the theme of customer-centric governance. Inevitably, as a conference for not for profit boards, there was also broader discussion about boardJane Arnott presenting at Better Boards Conference 2018  performance and behaviours. Here’s our top takeaways from Better Boards conference 2018

Customer centricity

  1. Employee experience determines customer experience: a recurring theme from conference speakers (including our own session) was that employee engagement is the pre-requisite for high quality customer experience. Unhappy, uncommitted, disengaged employees cannot deliver high quality customer interactions. This message was neatly summarised by Charles Weiser of Optus and Campbell Page “Your customer experience can never be higher than your employee experience”.

Continue reading…

The characteristics of social entrepreneurs

Over recent months we’ve spoken to a number of social entrepreneurs and innovators, and observed some in action. In last month’s blog we talked about what established organisations could characteristics of social entrepreneurslearn from innovators, this month we’re reflecting more on the personal, leadership characteristics of social entrepreneurs. These are some of the common themes we’ve observed. Continue reading…

What can established organisations learn from social entrepreneurs?

social entrepreneursIn recent months we’ve been engaging with a range of social entrepreneurs and sharing some of the learning from their experience in our Foreword articles. This month we will distil some of the themes that have come through from an organisational perspective, and consider how they can be deployed in established organisations. Next month we’ll look at some of the characteristics and behaviours of innovative leaders. Continue reading…

The Bread and Butter Project: turning inspiration into a viable social business

Turning a personal passion into a viable social business might start with an inspirational story but it certainly won’t end there.

Bread and Butter

For Paul Allam, founder of Sydney’s Bread and Butter Project and the Bourke Street Bakery, the inspiration came from a visit to the social business Mae Sot on the Thai-Burmese border and a project led by nuns to train and employ refugee women to bake bread to sell into the local community, which included a significant NGO presence. Continue reading…

The power of partnerships

Major change may be initiated or catalysed by one person, but it’s rarely achieved or sustained through lone effort. Just as we learn as managers and leaders that we need to shift from personally delivering the goods to doing through others, so social innovators need to progress from a personal commitment to new product or methodology to building partnerships, networks and collaborations to effect change.

Bringing people on board

Continue reading…

Innovating through process

‘Our enterprises aren’t innovative in themselves, but it’s the process of empowerment.’
Louise Nobes, KiK 

When we think of innovation, we are probably inclined to think of digital technology or other ‘new and improved’ versions of everyday products, but innovation isn’t just about product, it’s also about process.

After 15 years as a social worker, working with young people in Adelaide’s northern suburbs, Louise Nobes was frustrated by the lack of impact – young people were ‘just as disengaged, just as unemployed’. Young people who were feeling that they weren’t good enough just couldn’t access employment through normal routes. Necessity (or perhaps it’s frustration) is the mother of invention, so Louise developed an approach that put young people front and centre to develop their own businesses (and jobs) based on a model that brings together Continue reading…

Keeping your ear to the ground – how to track your progress when resources are tight

When you’re running a not for profit it can be hard to find the time to take a breath and track your progress throughout the year. The good news is that there are a number of ways to check in with your clients and stakeholders on a regular basis even when resources are tight. The right feedback can allow you to course correct and save you time, money, and headaches in the long run. Often a good place to start is with a conversation. We recently spoke to Ian Cox, CEO of the Hutt Street Centre, about how Ian’s team gets feedback from clients, staff and volunteers.

Conversations with clients, staff and volunteers

According to Ian, ‘It’s so critical in innovation to continue to speak to your friends, to find out the positives and the negatives, and that feedback will sometimes change the way you do things. We talk to our friends [Hutt Street refer to their clients as friends]. We talk to our staff and our 650 volunteers. We talk to our board, and we talk to our donors. We’ve now got those five levels of feedback. Continue reading…

New products, crowd funding and social impact bonds – three ways to diversify your NFP’s income streams


Many not for profits are looking beyond traditional grants and fundraising to increase revenue and maximise their impact. From user pays products to crowd funding and social impact bonds. Even if you’re not yet ready to diversify your NFP’s income streams, it’s worth keeping an eye on what’s out there, as new opportunities are emerging all the time.


The latest ACNC Australian Charities Report released in December 2017 shows that across the charity sector half of sector income is currently sourced outside of fundraising and government grants. Other income sources include Continue reading…