Enabling Excellence in Nonprofits A Positive Organizational Scholarship Perspective lynn wooten & Kelle Parsons Academic Desk

T he work of high-performing nonprofit organizations entails creating continuous and purposeful cycles of good-to-great as they fulfill their missions. Embedded in this is the organization’s ability to identify and enact the practices that transcend the organization from a problem-solving mentality to a frame of reference anchored in the positive enablers of extraordinary organizational success. Positive Organizational Scholarship (POS) provides a perspective to explore positive enablers (Cameron, Dutton & Quinn, 2003). POS emphasizes understanding the positive enablers of extraordinary success and how these dynamics can be sustained. Furthermore, POS examines positively deviant behavior of organizations and their members that intentionally depart from norms of a referent group in an honorable way (Spreitzer & Sonenshein, 2003). In nonprofit organizations, we contend that positive deviant behavior is grounded in specific “enablers,” the processes, techniques, and practices used to produce extraordinary results (Cameron & Lavine, 2006; Wooten & Cameron,2010).Enablers can be conceptualized into four general themes to help organizations identify the actions that lead to sustainable positive outcomes: create, control, collaborate, and compete. Interestingly, the four themes of positive deviance behaviors are paradoxical through two polarities of organizational life making up a “Competing Values Framework” (Cameron, Quinn, DeGraff & Thakor, 2006). The paradoxes of organizational life highlight

the need for organizations to be adaptable (create) versus stable (control),while focusing on internal processes (collaborate) versus external positioning (compete). When an organization is intentional about the four enablers of positive deviance, it embodies a culture of high-quality connections, stakeholders are intrinsically motivated to go beyond expectations and sacrifice for the common good, and the norm is to envision and experiment with possibilities (Quinn, 2012). Create In nonprofit organizations, the create enabler focuses on adaptable practices that produce innovation, facilitate a culture that embraces change, and position the organization for futuristic opportunities and challenges in relationship to its external environment. Excelling by focusing on creating means that the organization must empower members to constantly think about how they can reconfigure activities to produce new products and services. One nonprofit organization channeling work energy through the create enabler is the Acumen Fund, whose mission is to raise charitable donations to invest in companies, leaders, and ideals that are changing the way the world tackles poverty. To accomplish this goal, the Acumen Fund invests in an innovative model of “patient capital” that responds to the gap between traditional charity and business enterprises. It seeds a diverse array of new social ventures with the goal of generating returns to reinvest in new enterprises, and is willing to

20 I Nonprofit Professional Performance Magazine

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