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Working with a Mission-Driven Organization during a Leadership Change

Posted May 4, 2012 5:10 PM by Mark Cutler

Helping a mission-driven organization develop its Balanced Scorecard and implement its strategy is always a long, arduous journey with its share of unique challenges. When you start with a division or region of a large organization that is trying to be the early adopter, additional challenges and question arise around the fact that very little, if any, guidance is given because the organization may not yet know the full rules of engagement.

Some leaders see this as a reason to go slow and be careful, while other--I would argue more visionary--leaders view it as an opportunity to blaze the trail and set the rules for others to follow. An additional level of complexity, and second-guessing, may be added if the organization is the largest multilateral development agency in the world. This interesting scenario is playing out right now with a client of ours, the World Bank.

It is not often we get the opportunity to work with such a great institution and learn from the inside about the great work they do. However, it reaches another level of "interesting" when such a public institution is undergoing a very public and for the first time challenged leadership change.

It all began with the U.S.'s nominating Dartmouth President Dr. Jim Yong Kim to be the next head of the World Bank, which some said was a controversial choice because of his lack of true development ("Big Development") experience. To add fuel to the fire, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria's finance minister and a former managing director of the Bank, was also nominated for the position that is traditionally filled by the U.S. nominee.

While what ultimately became the appointment of Dr. Kim was playing out (and even afterward, since he remains something of a mystery as far as his development ideas), some leaders in the World Bank region we are working with wondered whether they should put the brakes on the implementation of their BSC to see what Dr. Kim wants to do. One possibility is that it could be the "Big Development" vs. "Small Development" issue raised by an article in the Economist on April 21. Having worked at the World Bank, Ngozi would have been the classic "Big Development" advocate, reliant on governments to set overall policy to organize the nationwide change that development investment in large-scale projects brings. On the other hand, the question is whether Dr. Kim, with almost no experience in government, is a "Small Development" advocate--one who believes in new, smaller sources of loans that focus on specific groups rather than large-scale country projects. However, at this point, it seems Dr. Kim remains a mystery to most inside and outside the bank.

With this in mind, the leader of the World Bank region with whom we work I believe has made the right decision regarding the implementation of their Balanced Scorecard: Blaze the trail. Get out ahead of the curve to set the rules of engagement and have your story ready to tell when Dr. Kim asks. It is hard enough to get an organization lined up and ready to implement its strategy, when you have taken the right steps to get there, don't worry about outside influences to slow you down. Or, as the saying goes, "Ask forgiveness, not permission."

Filed Under Leadership