Pro Bono (III) – Integrity

Final comment on Pro Bono from Triggers by Howard Marshall’s (Pro Bono I – Commitment, Pro Bone II – Excuse):

When we find ourselves in a position where we have an excuse to do less than our best, how many of us grab the pro bono excuse as a lifeline?

Integrity is an all-or-nothing (like being half pregnant, there’s no such thing as semi-integrity). We need to display it whatever obligations we’ve made.

We don’t need integrity to live up to our smart commitments – the ones where there is an obvious payoff for showing up and doing our best.

The true test is delivering top-shelf performance with our stupid commitments 0 the kind we didn’t want to do in the first place and got talked into.

We know this is the right think to do, but caught up in a challenging environment – we’re tired or overextended, we have better options, it costs more than we thought, the White House is calling with a more glamorous offer -0 we think more about our situation than the people counting on us 

Pro Bono (II) – Excuse

More on Pro Bono working from Howard Marshall’s great book Triggers way (Part 1 at Pro Bono I):\r\n\r\n

“When we find ourselves in a position where we have an excuse to do less than our best, how many of us grab the pro bono excuse as a lifeline?

“By pro bono, I don’t just mean that we’re not getting paid for our expertise (like high powered lawyers representing nonprofit organisations for free) but rather any voluntary activity that’s a persona choice – whether it’s coaching out kid’s soccer team or washing dishes at a soup kitchen or mentoring at-risk teens at the local high school or agreeing to give a speech.

“We create causal equivalences between volunteering and our level of commitment. We think that because we raised out hand to HELP OUT we can raise our hand to OPT OUT at the inconvenient moments. This is how our fine and noble intentions degrade into good enough outcomes. This is how our integrity gets compromised. “

Pro Bono (I) – Commitment

More than ten years ago I went through a selection process to become a priest in the Church of England. It was decided that after training I would become a full time priest and receive a full time salary. More than ten years later and I have just started to receive a salary. And between selection and now I have worked full time, at my own cost. Pro Bono. Like any job it can be very pressured and I regularly get this advice from friends during pressured times:“You’re a volunteer! Just don’t do it!” Why?! I don’t get it. Like most people, what I do is not driven by a direct connection between money and task, although obviously having absolutely no money would bring everything to an end. As a professional, as a person, why would I NOT follow through on a carefully considered commitment? Howard Marshall in his great book Triggers (my best book of the year so far) put it this way:

“Pro Bono is an adjective, not an excuse. If you think that doing folks a favor justifies doing less than your best, you’re not doing anyone any favors, including yourself. People forget your promise, remember your performance. It’s like a restaurant donating food to a homeless shelter, but delivering self-dated leftovers and scraps that hungry people can barely swallow. The restaurant owner thinks he’s being generous, that any donation is better than nothing Better than nothing is not even close to good enough – and good enough, after we make a promise, is never good enough.”

Project Proformas for Charity Projects

“How can charities and churches develop Good Ideas for Local Projects?” was the question some of us asked last year as we thought about how a group of local churches could have an impact on Nine Elms on the South Bank.

To facilitate this further I developed a proforma to guide the thoughts of creatives and leaders through an analytical process to determine the focus, cost and time required for a typical project.

Two examples are shown here, one for a Centre for Spiritual and Personal Development, and one for a Family Hub to serve some local estates. Forfor a working copy to use email me at and I’ll send you a copy.

Seth’s Blog: A hierarchy of organizational needs

This comes from Seth’s Blog: A hierarchy of organizational needs. If you haven’t read Seth Godin’s blog then check it out for challenges ….

A hierarchy of organizational needs

  • Make it properly
  • Make it on time
  • Make it efficiently
  • Make promises
  • Make it matter
  • Make connections
  • Make a difference
  • Make a ruckus
  • Make change

It gets more and more compelling (and more difficult) as you move from making it properly to making change. But we need all of it.

Parables of Leadership: Late Bob

Bob was a leader. He had strong values which had been developed over a few years of leadership. He shared his views about many subjects often and easily with people around him  (reflecting his values of openness and authenticity) but he  mostly shared his views about other members of the organisation (a high value on honest confrontation) and how they always resisted change and so would never grow personally or corporately (optimism wasn’t a key value for Bob).

Bob was in a team and Bob was always late. He never arrived on time for anything the team organised, and sometimes he didn’t arrive at all.

The team wanted to share Bob’s values but they also wanted him to appreciate theirs. They valued courtesy, restraint, consideration and kindness. But especially they valued their own time, and respecting other through promptness was one of their key values.

Bob’s carelessness over respecting their values made them sometimes wonder about Bob’s ….

No Action – No Change

I was recently discussing with a friend the tendency in organisations to TALK about ISSUES rather than ACT to solve PROBLEMS.

Teams tie themselves in knots wrestling with high level issues (which can never be fully resolved) and either no longer see local problems or won’t act on smaller problems in the fear of contradicting some higher level values. In either case, they have forgotten how to act to act quickly to solve presenting problems.

This friend had spent much of his working life in the military and told me about the OODA Loop, also known as the Boyd Diagram after Colonel John Boyd, a fighter pilot and military strategist. Boyd deconstructed the process of combat and realised that if he could cycle and recycle through four  activities quicker than the enemy he would win the fight.

The activities are:

  • Observe
  • Orientate
  • Decide
  • Act.

The essence is ACTION: nothing changes until the action is executed. Until then either nothing changes or the enemy strikes first.

My experience of most organisations is that they are more comfortable in Observe and Orientate and have a reticence Decide and Act to solve the problems waiting to be done.Here’s the OODA Loop:

The Boyd Diagram