Proved your pilot? Good now FOCuS

Proved your pilot? Good now FOCuS

Eoghan Ryan, Social Impact Manager, Social Innovation Fund Ireland 

In my last article, I identified the importance of doing something about that big idea you have, but doing it with some form of solid foundation. Easy right? In the second half of 2018, Social Innovation Fund Ireland are supporting 33 organisations on our six-month Accelerator. Some are mature organisations looking to scale and some are early stage organisations piloting new ideas, but we’ve found a common approach ensures all are moving forward on the same straight-ish line to their ideality (thanks to Karl Aherne for that analogy). This approach is synopsised as assess, plan, do (‘measure, do again’ will be the subject of my next article) and I’ve created a simplified tool to help you first assess your organisation’s current stage of development. I call it – Start with FOCuS!

Start with Five Key Areas and draw your FOCuS Wheel

Let me start by saying there are loads of tools like this and I’m not proclaiming this is a silver bullet. The FOCuS Wheel is based on a common coaching tool – Wheel of Life – that gets you thinking about where you are strong and where you need to work on across your organisation. This tool challenges you to assess five key areas – Fundraising, Operations, Communications, u-The Leader, and Social Impact capacity – by asking some fundamental questions about the stage of development in each area. By filling in the quadrants of your wheel you should have a clearer picture of where your organisation is strong and areas that require attention.

I believe a wheel is a nice metaphor for any business – profit or non-profit. Consider the following barely believable scenario; a sturdy, evenly-balanced tricycle will get you to the Tour de France finish line better than the large, rickety racer. Sometimes the racer wins a stage but over the course of the Tour it breaks down multiple times ensuring the tricycle wins in the end! What I’m trying to articulate here is that the more you assess in the beginning, the more robust your plan, the greater your ultimate impact even though it may seem like it takes a bit longer.

What do I do now and how do I prioritise?

After you have completed the exercise you’re going to have a largely uneven looking wheel. Don’t panic, it’s always like this. You’ll also have a to-do list as long as your arm. So where should you start? Consider the paraphrased words of the successful JP Morgan – ‘I start my day with a long list of to-dos. Then I circle the three activities that I believe will give me the highest pay-off. If I only do these three things well, it’s been a good day’. Use your wheel to prioritise what needs to get done. I’m not suggesting you need to drop everything to improve the shallow parts of your wheel but giving them more of your time is a start. Spend time thinking about how you can improve those areas, jot some actions down and prioritise their completion. Be sure to track their progress and celebrate when they’ve been ticked off.

Don’t forget about the ‘u’

In the craziness of trying to balance your wheel, it’s easy to forget about yourself as a leader. Don’t! You are the driving force of what you’re trying to achieve and you need to ensure you’re burning petrol not oil in your engine. Ensure you spend time looking after yourself and keeping yourself full of energy and ideas. At the end of the day, you’re the person driving the organisation towards its vision. You are its prized commodity which needs to be at its best at all times. Take time out to strategise, work on yourself and implement innovative ideas. This will ultimately lead to a more balanced, supported organisation that exceeds its targets and maximises its impact.