Looking forwards or backwards?

My friend Trey recently help me realize that many systems are backwards looking.  They are simply reporting engines that tell us what happened.  How many donations came in?  How many meals were served?  How many volunteers do we have? How many locations do we have a presence on?

The challenge is not to build better systems that tell us what happened.  The challenge for non-profit leaders is to architect an infrastructure of information gathering and decision-making that will tell us what to do next.

Who are the donors we should call?  How many volunteers do we need to recruit?  Which locations need more resources?  Which locations should be closed?  What best practices can we take and apply to other situations?

Under the hood, the systems may be similar, but it is essential that the next generation of systems be designed with forward thinking in mind.

What are some ways you are using forward thinking systems?


3 thoughts on “Looking forwards or backwards?

  1. Russ, this is a great insight on systems and how we can design and use them more wisely. This seems to be a key principle that we can apply in the conversation about “leading with information.” I feel that human analysis will always play a key role in using information from a system to aid rapid learning and forward thinking, but certainly the design of the system and facilitate that.

    So, how to do that? If we can have the system know what key indicators to look for and help flag for us, that will free up our mental cycles to then do the next level of thinking. Instead of me taking 30 minutes to scan over some raw data or charts, if the system does the first scan and points out trends or ratios or other indicators that are pre-designated, that allows to me to use that 30 minutes of time to ask the next level of questions of what I should therefore do to make changes that would accelerate me more towards the results I want to see.


    1. little correction: end of the first paragraph should say “the design of the system can facilitate that.”


  2. Someone once told me, “leaders are big picture people, use big pictures!”

    If the first thing someone looks at in a system is a picture, it can be very helpful. We tried it in one of our systems and began to see a higher engagement as a result.


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