Capacity: Too much, Too little, or just not aligned?

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Shifts in revenue, expenses, funding, and/or staffing resources, are threatening the operational sustainability of Organizations and is driving them to the point of having to restructure. In response to this shift, Organizations must now prioritize understanding their capacity, structure themselves accordingly, and improve efficiency when meeting levels of customer demand. 

Capacity, defined as the actual or potential ability to perform, yield or withstand, or the maximum amount or number that can be received or contained, is where discussions need to begin. 

As it relates to Organizations, capacity concerns how staffing and systems are efficiently designed to effectively deliver services to a specific volume of business. It is about building the organizational structure to withstand the volume of business in a financially sustainable way, all while achieving the desired outcomes.

Healthcare, Human Services, and Higher Education, are just a few of the many sectors that are taking a more in-depth look at capacity, efficiency, outcomes, and job performance. Historically, issues with capacity were solved simply by adding additional staff. Today, with limited financial resources available, Organizations must find ways to become more efficient in order to survive.

Having a detailed plan and specific approach to Organization Design is a major factor in successfully restructuring and positioning an organization for long-term success. In our experience with clients, following a proven approach to restructuring will help Organizations increase production, save money, optimize staff, reengineer service delivery, and support decision making by Leadership.  

Our approach to Organization Design is structured in 3 phases: Core Process, Job Functions, and Overall Structure. Each phase is highlighted below:

Core Process
Prior to an organization examining the role of Staff in a company, department, or team, they must first define the current core process that a customer (student, patient, individual, etc.) would experience operationally. The core process, or customer experience, must be dissected in order to learn where the capacity and volume levels are not logically, functionally, and financially aligned. 

We examine this from the wholistic viewpoint of the operational process as a whole, in order to understand the high level of strategic need, the logical flow, and the value to the customer. It is then that we can ensure the capacity can withstand customer demand and elasticity in volume. 

It is also during this Phase, that valuable insight can be shared concerning aspects of the core process that no longer add value and what aspects are missing and need to be added. This is one phase of three that helps build the logic to support the decision making and change process for redesign.

Job Functions
As work is being done to define an organization’s core process, Phase 2: Job Functions, begins.  Our propriety Job Post Process, allows us to develop a comprehensive understanding of the roles of job functions within an organization. Once this depth of understanding is reached, we can align those functions to the core process and, in turn, determine staffing levels, allocation of resources, staffing capacity, and alignment within the overall structure. 

Overall Structure
Phase 3: Organizational structure, is the final piece of the operational puzzle which builds upon the capacity information derived from the Core Process and Job Function Phase analysis. This Phase will bring in to question staffing roles, functional alignment, and outcome effectiveness. 

While these are complex decisions, we encourage clients to focus on the benefits of redesigning an organization to improve capacity. Some of which include: 

  • Increases in revenue performance or expansion
  • Identifying non-value added activities and cost savings
  • Increases in staff production and moral
  • Strategic discussions about the alignment of services to future demand
  • Identifying gaps and duplications in service

At Curtis Strategy, we understand the challenges organizations face when capacity discussions arise. We have supported departmental and organization-wide restructuring initiatives to ensure organizations remain viable for the future. If you have any additional questions or would like to discuss how Curtis Strategy can support your organization’s capacity, please contact us. 


Do You Have a Plan for Your Plan?

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A typical strategic plan takes months to create and when the final plan is voted in, it can feel like the process is complete. However, creating your organization’s strategy is not an end in itself. The culmination of the planning process marks the start to executing the strategic direction envisioned for the organization. In order to ensure success, a well thought-out and detailed plan for implementation is required. 

An implementation plan should be devised in conjunction with the strategic planning process. There are four areas to consider before implementing your strategic plan: Culture, Resources, Accountability, and Systems.

An organization’s culture is formed over time through shared values. Organizations that have successfully implemented their strategic plans value employee engagement and communication at all levels. The staff will ultimately be responsible for executing the plan so it makes sense to involve them in strategic discussions throughout the process by listening to their ideas, obtaining feedback, and acting on their suggestions when applicable. This not only builds trust between leadership and staff but also helps set the stage for ownership and accountability during implementation. When everyone in the organization is working toward the same purpose, productivity and morale increase leading to more successful outcomes.

Organizational capacity is always a factor when designing strategy. Without sufficient and capable resources, an organization cannot move forward with its strategic vision. An assessment of both the financial and human resources needed to move the plan forward is required for success. Budgets should be reviewed and aligned with strategic priorities. If the organization is lacking the appropriate staff or skills, additional resources may be needed. In certain situations, it may also be necessary to review the overall organizational structure to ensure the structure aligns with strategy. Without this alignment and the right resources necessary to implement the plan, it becomes difficult to impossible to make progress.

During the planning process we guide clients in creating business plans at the tactical level, which includes timelines and assignments. These tactical plans become the foundation for each department’s role in carrying out the overall strategic plan. Incorporating strategic initiatives into employees’ job responsibilities assigns accountability and increases engagement since this helps them understand how they fit into the overall strategy. Empowering employees by encouraging decision-making and providing a safe space to take risks also helps with accountability and ownership. Regularly scheduled strategy meetings at each level of the organization are helpful as long as the intent is to review progress, provide a means of escalation and problem solving, and to hold people accountable to their tasks and objectives.

Management and tracking systems help drive the implementation process by providing a snapshot of how the team is doing against the plan. The use of a project dashboard, scorecard, or other tracking tool keeps leadership engaged and provides a means of accountability for those implementing the plan. The use of a system gives teams support by providing a platform to discuss barriers and solutions with leadership. The system also helps to structure meetings and directs focus for time in between meetings so that it is spent working on the right priorities. Whichever tool is used, timeframes, progress tracking, milestones, and issues requiring escalation should be included to provide a complete picture of the implementation status. This helps eliminate any surprises as to why deadlines may go off course. A sample dashboard is included below. Performance management and reward systems should also be considered to provide a structure to reinforce the contributions of top performers in moving the organization’s strategic vision forward.  

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Implementing the strategic plan is arguably more important than determining the organization’s strategy. It is what will determine how impactful changes will be made within the organization. Implementation planning should be done in conjunction with strategic planning to maximize success. Involvement of employees at all levels throughout the planning process keeps them informed and engaged, leading to better long-term outcomes. The best thought-out strategy does not go very far without the right culture, resources, structure, and systems to move it forward. With careful planning, an organization's strategic vision is better attainable.

Surviving and Thriving through Strategic Partnerships

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Client Spotlight: Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley

    Since its inception in 1974, Elder Services has been a catalyst for creative programming and meaningful partnerships with other agencies.  The agency mission has both broadened the scope and quality of community long term care services with the cooperation and collaboration between the elder and disabled service network.   As Joan Hatem Roy, Elder Services CEO and area native explained, “The Merrimack Valley has a proud history of strong communities, and a sense of extended partnerships that care for one another.  This includes the nonprofit sector who has worked together for years.”

    Forging partnerships and developing trust has enabled Elder Services to extend their service options not only in community care but in working with health care organizations in preventive and transitional care services.  This includes creating the Healthy Living Center of Excellence in 2008 which has become a national model for collaboration.  The programs offered through the Center of Excellence, are evidenced based education programs that help people better manage chronic health conditions and empower them to be better health care consumers. The Center works with 90 different organizations throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to offer 14 different evidenced based health care programs. In turn, state, federal, philanthropic foundations and even health plans have helped fund new programs and work with Elder Services staff to expand this collaborative program to other states in the nation.

    Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley has been recognized as a leader in aging services and innovation.  ESMV and the Northeast Independent Living Program (NILP), a long-time partner in the Merrimack Valley Aging & Disability Resource Consortium (MV ADRC), formed the Merrimack Valley Community Partnership (MVCP) and became certified by Mass Health as Community Partner for Long Term Support Services to working with health systems to help consumers’ navigate resources.  They were also one of the first organizations in the nation to partner with six hospitals in the Merrimack Valley to provide transitional coaching services through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services (CMS).   Additionally, their state home care services continue to expand, and they contract with over 70 service providers to meet the care needs of over 8,000 consumers daily.  

    As CEO, Joan sees the next 3 to 5 years as a continuation of growth and expansion in services and programs.  Some agency programs have expanded to southern New Hampshire and beyond the Merrimack Valley region.  New funding is forging new partnerships with disability agencies to serve a broader population of need not limited by age.  Collaborative programs and education helps Elder Services staff stay current on topics of interest and innovation in other parts of the nation.  

    The agency’s  focus will always be to empower people to better manage their lives and maximize their abilities as they age.  Their partnerships enhance their abilities to serve a broader need, and spur on their passion for innovation in quality service delivery and programming.

    As a result of her experience, Joan does have advice for those that are considering collaborations and partnerships. While Massachusetts and the Merrimack Valley in particular, has invested in Human Services, Joan encourages organizations to look closely at that investment to see what is already available. Knowing what is already out there, and finding the expertise, will help avoid the trap of reinventing the wheel. Leaders should look for infrastructure that already exists as those organizations already have a sense of the community and sensitivities concerning it. 

    During a time when restructuring, shifts in funding, and changes in consumer behavior are causing competition among many nonprofits, Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley is experiencing success and growth through collaborations and partnerships. To learn more about Elder Services, please visit

 Boards Must Create Time & Space

by: Eric W. Curtis


The pace of change is accelerating and as a result, our ability to devote time to planning for the future is diminishing. In an effort to “hold the ship together”, organizations are finding themselves addressing issues as they arise. As such, those in Leadership roles are spending their time working IN the company, leaving little time to work ON the company.

While many have been able to piece things together thus far, organizations are now seeing the need to step back and look at how to structure their time in order to meet future demands.

This is where the Board of Directors can help. The role of a governing Board of Directors is to create the necessary time and space to work ON the company so that organizations can be intentional about how they want to shape their future.

Typically, Board meetings consist of listening to organizational updates that have occurred since the previous meeting, and making decisions on initiatives that will be implemented leading into the next meeting. 

But where is the balance between oversight/governance and strategy? How do Boards consistently help the CEO drive strategy? How is the time and opportunity to build relevancy and viability in the years ahead provided? And how can Boards change the way they operate in order to ensure this happens?

One of the key reasons organizations have a Board of Directors, is the function they serve in task managing complexity over a long period of time. 

Organizations need this objective view from the Board as well as from individuals that understand the industry or sector landscape, the potential threats that exist, and the opportunities for ensuring the company remain viable and relevant.

The Board of Directors can create time and space following 3 simple steps:

Step 1: Identify all discussions and decisions that occur throughout the year that would fall into the Oversight/Governance category. These are the topics that fulfill the fiduciary oversight of the Board. These topics include, but are not limited to: budget approval, auditors report, annual meeting, committee reports, and CEO report.

Step 2: Identify the topics that require planning and advance discussion. This consists of strategy items such as: strategic planning, investment proposals, merger strategy, risk management, talent review, and educational opportunities for the Board regarding major trends. These are topics that look ahead to the future and support planning in the years to come.

Step 3: Build an annual agenda for the Board with every meeting divided in to equal parts oversight (50%) and strategy and planning (50%).  Presently, many Boards of Directors allocate their time around the oversight topics very well, but do not provide opportunity for strategy and planning discussion and decision making. Being able to anticipate when the Board will need to review an audit verses planning for future acquisitions, are both critical topics that need proper time allotment.

Board meeting agendas, both annual and monthly, are the #1 tool for controlling time and opportunity. The agendas dictate the time to work on the “As-Is” and “To-Be” as well as the oversight and future planning. Without changing the way Boards operate, meetings will continue to focus on organizational updates and committee presentations. There is too much risk in this rapidly changing landscape to ignore the need to plan for the future.

It is the responsibility of the Board Chair and the CEO to collaboratively shape the Board Agendas. The more the agendas can be structured annually to balance both oversight and strategy, the more engaged, informed, and productive a Board of Directors will be. Boards must support and encourage companies to look as far forward into the future as possible, and to ask the right questions questions to drive planning.


 You say consolidate. We say collaborate! 


by Carolyn Madden

Consolidation, or the combining of a number of things into a single more effective whole, is a word we are hearing a lot in the nonprofit world. Nonprofits are currently experiencing shifts in funding, competition, and changes in consumer behavior. In an effort to save money, increase capacity, diversify revenue, and position themselves competitively, organizations are now being forced to consider sharing services, building partnerships, or merging together.

Yet, when the words “consolidate” and “merger” arise,  many are initially resistant to the notion. While there are various reasons for this, we have found there to be three common themes that arise when organizations are considering a merger: Surviving brand, Surviving Leadership, and Surviving Board. Concerns related to these three issues can dissuade organizations from considering a merger and, in some instances, it can halt merger discussions that have already begun. 

So, lets step back for a moment and approach a merger from a different perspective. While consolidation and merger are often concepts that people are tentative about,  there is a similar word that can be used that has the opposite effect. Collaboration.

Collaboration, or working jointly to produce a desired outcome,  is a word that is widespread in the nonprofit world. It inspires feelings of enthusiasm, determination, motivation, and teamwork, and it is something that nonprofits have been doing for years.

Schools work together to find ways to deliver curriculum creatively when funds are cut and materials must be shared. Human Services organizations work together when a singular organization cannot provide all the services needed by an individual. 

Organizations are constantly working together in a effort to make a difference in our communities and in our world. They are doing whatever it takes to drive their mission, accomplish their goals, and to preserve the value that they add to our quality of life and to the quality of life of those that surround us. 

As such, many organizations have a deep understanding of what they need to collaborate on, when they need to collaborate, and who their partners should be. Having said that, collaboration is often a good starting point when considering a merger. Who you can work with and how that relationship will play out, is in integral part of the merger process. Knowing and understanding this, can often make the concept of a merger and the actual merger process, less overwhelming. 

Having said that, let’s now revisit the three biggest concerns related to mergers in greater detail:

What will the surviving brand be? 
An issue with organizations both new and established, people are often tied to their brand. Brand is, after all, the visual representation of an organization and what they are all about. It makes an organization easily recognizable to those they serve as well as throughout the community. 

In the case of a merger, organizations must work together and decide on branding. For those organizations that have a history of working together, brand and mission familiarity have already been established. This will aid in the process, as individuals may be more amenable to working under a brand they are already familiar with and more focus can be placed on driving organizational goals forward rather than what the final brand will be. 

Who will retain their leadership role? 
Those that hold a leadership role in an organization are often responsible for inspiring and empowering groups of people to carry out that organization’s mission. They are also, independently or collectively, the people that are held the most accountable for an organization’s survival. 

When a merger presents itself as an option to ensure future viability, it is an organization’s leaders that are responsible to doing due diligence. While some leaders may not be familiar with all that a merger entails, most are well aware of how a merger will impact leadership roles. There will be those that retain their position, those that are reassigned, and those that will no longer have a position within the organization.  While the emotions related to this cannot be disregarded, it is important to keep in mind that a merger can often be the primary means of allowing an organization to continue the work they are doing for the betterment of society. 

Who will remain on the Board and how will they govern?
Board members, those individuals that devote their time and energy to ensuring an organization is on track with meeting its goals, are often one of an organization’s most valuable assets. Board members are there because they want to be and many of them have a personal connection to the organization they represent. 

As in integral part of any organization, Boards are not immune from consideration during the merger process. Often, the issue of who will remain on the Board is easily addressed by simply combining the two Boards. If mergers are occurring within the recommended same sector or with organizations within a value chain of activities, this should make for a more seamless combination. 

It is critical for organizations to remember that concerns, such as those discussed above, and emotional attachments can’t outweigh the benefits of a merger. A successful merger will help an organization eliminate competition, acquire talent, save money, expand geographic impact, and improve quality of service, among other countless benefits. Most importantly, a merger can ensure survival in a highly competitive marketplace and allow organizations to continue the positive impact they have on society.