A post to Exponent Philanthropy's blog

Book It and Ship It

Earlier this year, Jim Morgan of Morgan Family Foundation published Applied Wisdom for Nonprofits: Eight Practical Tools for Leadership to share leadership tools and techniques with nonprofit emerging leaders, executive directors, and board members.

Developed through his varied experiences—farming, military, venture capital, the Fortune 500 company Applied Materials, the Nature Conservancy, and his family foundation—Jim’s “Morganisms,” as his team named them years ago, are relevant to foundation leaders too.

We bring the book to your attention for your professional development and in hopes you will share its insights with your nonprofit partners. Request a complimentary copy >>

Here is an excerpt:

In the manufacturing business, “book it and ship it” simply means, “We’re finished building this. Let’s move on.” But I used it at [The Nature Conservancy] TNC as a way of saying, “No more dithering. We’ve done our best here; now let’s put the decision in motion and see what happens.”

If problems develop, you manage them. But kicking the can down the road over and over just saps energy. Success comes from the implementation of ideas. Time should be spent on organizing, strategizing, and planning, but then you need to complete the project, hire the person, and get the donation.

Of course, this Morganism doesn’t apply just to environmental nonprofits. Making good decisions, timed right, is a challenge for all groups. My experience says that you just have to cultivate the habit of making timely decisions and then effectively communicate them.

The Cost of Perfect Information

At Applied, we used to envision ourselves standing on a cliff. One of three things can happen: 1) You give a correct answer to the question and you stay on the cliff. 2) Wrong answer, you’re pushed off. 3) No answer, you’re also pushed off! This scenario sharpens the mind. Within their area of responsibility, most people will give the right answer most of the time. You just need to decide to decide.

Voltaire said, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” That’s sound advice. Time is wasted and opportunities are lost when people become fixated on having perfect information rather than trusting their instincts, making decisions, and then managing the consequences.

Organizations in motion can alter course much faster than they can go from zero to 60. Decisions create momentum.

That does not mean you agree to pursue long shots or ignore troubling data just to make sure you do something. You always want good information. And you want extremely good information when you are calculating a moon shot or planning a brain surgery. But the cost of perfect information is too high for most decisions. Too many people agonize too long making a decision and then they don’t pay enough attention to managing the outcome.

More complex decisions require a staged process. Gather a few people with the best perspective to frame the decision needed. Assign for appropriate analysis and recommendation. Get used to not having perfect information to make a decision. Of course the decision is important, but more important is how you manage next steps. Establish a written set of milestones to assess each decision and how you are managing the consequences of the decision over time.

I sometimes think of the quotation, “When all was said and done, more was said than done.”

Book it and ship it!

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