A coalition leads the way to system transformation
2010 – present. 2+ years.
In 2004, California passed Proposition 63, a groundbreaking piece of legislation known as the Mental Health Services Act (MSHA).
This Act mandates that stakeholders in the public mental health system would—for the first time ever— become a main factor for planning, procedures, service delivery, evaluation and the definition and determination of outcomes for county funded programs.
A year and a half after coming together for this monumental charge, the stakeholder group was in the throes of dysfunction. Personality clashes, tempers, and emotionally-charged meetings kept them from doing the work.
For this project, Marz Consulting paired with a close colleague who specializes in orchestrating processes for large, complex systems. Initially, we found that the process lacked structure, norms, and shared agreements among members. Group members varied widely in their perspectives and background. In truth, despite the differences, the people in the stakeholder group shared a common goal: to make sure services were relevant to the needs of clients and their family members. This gave us plenty of common ground to build upon.
This coalition has created clear governance structures and agreements. It now has a committee tasked with planning agendas for each large, monthly meeting. This sets the group up for more positive and productive outcomes. The coalition has refined elaborate county plans for dozens of programs, and has made funding recommendations for innovative programming. Their input is sought and incorporated by the Mental Health Director and program staff. In other words, they are now shaping the system.
And at a fundamental level, this coalition has earned one another’s trust and respect. Where there was bickering and suspicion, there is now more awareness of the whole system (and a commitment to move beyond self-advocacy).
While still a work in progress, there is now a relevant, functional venue for client and family member input into public programming that touches the lives of millions.back to top
A partnership “does the work” to advance their shared mission
Three conservation non-profits saw the writing on the wall: they could achieve more and secure future funding if they worked together… not just on their own.
So they formed a long-term partnership. Several years in, they’d come across the normal “growing pains” of this kind of relationship. The difference in organizational cultures. Imbalances of power. Role confusion. And lack of confidence in where the proverbial buck really stops.
Marz Consulting was brought in for the work we do with foundations and non-profits. For this project, our thought partner and co-lead was an attorney by training. The nature of this project was data-driven, requiring her methodical expertise and exquisite attention to detail.
First, we measured the partnership’s strengths and challenges. We collected data from the core team of 12 as well as an extended working group of 50.
At a two-day retreat, we presented the data. We then helped them come up with an action plan that harnessed the strengths and particular cultures of each organization. These findings were then rolled out to the larger team. Once back home, we worked with a smaller team to create a comprehensive, 30-page report that distilled what the group learned… and provided a detailed road map of recommendations going forward.
The report now serves as a touchstone as the partnership faces important decisions and challenges. It’s a reference that’s used regularly to guide the partnership. Now that they are working together as a trio, this partnership has also taken leadership in promoting healthy partnerships among other conservation groups.
A founder leaves in the middle of rapid growth – now what?
Spring 2010 – present. 2 years.
In a short period of time, a B Corporation had grown from a scrappy start-up to a $20 million dollar organization. (A B Corporation is a mission-driven, for profit entity.)
Its leadership was largely grassroots activists who were, understandably, still learning how to manage the budget and operations of a venture of this size. On top of that, the organization’s original founder had recently left, with little succession planning. The pace of change was feverish.
Marz Consulting brought in a former VP of AT&T, who saw his share of rapid growth in the telecommunications industry over three decades. He also brings extensive experience as a great team leader through unprecedented and massive organizational change.
The project is two-fold: develop the leadership and teamwork capabilities of the organization’s leaders. And support their ability to act strategically in the business.
To begin, Marz Consulting paired everyone on the team with a private leadership coach. Individual coaching helps team members quickly integrate new information and tailor it to their style and role in the organization.
We simultaneously meet with the leadership team to develop their team identity, communication, and decision-making skills. On the business side, we are guiding them through a reexamination of their mission, vision, and values.
This freshly-minted leadership team has crossed one of most difficult hurdles of an organization: weathering the departure of the founder.
The organization’s revenue continues to increase. They’ve expanded their staff, services, and products. And the leaders have developed a habit of pushing decision-making “downward”… so other managers and staff are more empowered to decide and act on their own.back to top
A team discovers a more proactive approach
A six-person team at a global environmental foundation with a multi-million dollar annual budget wasn’t getting along. The work was fast-paced, high-pressure… and highly politicized.
Because this group oversaw one of the nation’s largest granting budgets, communication, the ability to think and act on their feet, and work in concert with one another were crucial. But with two upper level members on the team, their “direct reports” were unhappy. They didn’t know how to fix it.
Marz Consulting paired with a foundation expert with global experience. Together, we set up a custom yearlong program to diagnose the issue and train the team.
To get a baseline, we assessed how the team was currently engaging one another. When it came to making decisions and getting work done together, were they more reactive or proactive?
The assessment revealed, not surprisingly, that this team was operating in “crisis mode” as a matter of habit… and this habit impacted everything—communication, workflow, productivity, and morale.
Over the course of 4 half-day intensive retreats, we helped the team design an action plan to evolve they way they worked. Then, we met with the team monthly to celebrate progress and course-correct along the way.
At the end of a year, we assessed the team (using the same tool from earlier in the year). In the post-test we saw a 40% decrease in team’s reactive, knee-jerk tendencies. We also saw an 85% increase in creative (or proactive) leadership skills, such as achieving results, systems awareness, authenticity, and relating.
Over time, the team learned how to move decision-making responsibility “downward,” that is, closer to the work (it had been clustered “at the top” creating a bottle neck).
They ran more focused weekly meetings. They identified opportunities for mentoring assistant-level staff—resulting in a big boost to morale. Best of all, as this team became more practiced and confident, they began to teach their best practices to other teams in the organization.
Within a year, they became the model of a high-performing team within their organization.back to top
A young leader is called to found an organization
November 2009 – present. 2+ years.
Early in her career, the interim Executive Director of a regional nonprofit was charged with “winding down” an organization which had run its course.
She didn’t have much support. And as a single mother, work-life balance was an ongoing struggle. Once completed, she planned to look for another post that would draw on her knack for details and organizing.
In the process of closing the organization’s doors, we uncovered new information about her skills, leadership ability, and value to the community.
Through leadership training and inquiry, this young leader got feedback she wasn’t expecting. According to people around her, her talents went well beyond “being organized”… she, in fact, is a bridge builder and “connector.” They also let her know that these talents were sorely needed within the broader Social Justice community in the Southwest.
The message: don’t leave this arena. It is time for YOU to found a new organization, built on YOUR vision for Social Justice and YOUR leadership. As she became clearer on what her personal mission, vision, and values were, she was approached by funders who—quite literally—were calling her to stay and lead.
This opportunity aligned with what she saw for herself. So she made the decision to found a new organization. She’s since hand-picked an expert Advisory Board and established the structures and protocols she’ll need to fulfill her mission. She’s secured a significant portion of her funding. And the organization is on track to open its doors the summer of 2012.back to top